Current Affairs and News Analysis for UPSC Civil Service Examination and State Civil Service Examinations.

Current Affairs and News analysis for UPSC CSE and State CSE

GS Prelims and Mains II

Audit of child shelters ‘frightening’

National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is carrying out an audit of child care institutions and other bodies such as children homes, open shelters, observation homes, special homes, places of safety, specialised adoption agencies and fit facilities under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, and Model Rules.

The audit is being conducted in compliance with a Supreme Court order on May 5, 2017.

Preliminary contents of a social audit conducted by the NPCR highlighted that –

  • Out of a total of 2,874 children’s homes surveyed, only 54 institutions could be given positive reviews.
  • Out of 185 shelter homes audited across the country, only 19 had “all the records of a child that they are supposed to maintain.”
  • Of the 203 special adoption agencies, only eight deserved positive reviews.
  • Similarly, only 16% of the 172 observation homes had all the required records of the children, like case histories and who are residing there.
  • Again, out of 80 special homes/place of safety only 13% have the complete set of records.

GS Prelims and Mains III

India’s most polluted: 30% have no clean up plan

A good number of India’s most polluted cities are not too keen to clean up their act, according to a list maintained by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Of the 102 cities singled out by the Centre for their alarming pollution levels, only 73 have submitted a plan of remedial action to the CPCB. Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Nagpur and Jaipur are among the prominent cities that are yet to submit their plans.

These so called ‘non-attainment cities’ were among those marked out by the CPCB and asked – as part of the National Clean Air Campaign (NCAP) – to implement 42 measures aimed at mitigating air pollution. These included steps such as implementing control and mitigation measures related to vehicular emissions, re-suspension of road dust and other fugitive emissions, bio-mass, municipal solid waste burning, industrial pollution, and construction and demolition activities.

Do you know?

  • The non-attainment cities are those that have fallen short of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for over five years.
  • Recently, World Health Organisation said that Delhi and Varanasi were among 14 Indian cities that figured in a global list of the 20 most polluted cities in terms of PM2.5 levels.
  • Other Indian cities with very high levels of PM2.5 particulates were Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Lucknow, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur, followed by Ali Subah Al-Salem in Kuwait and some cities in China and Mongolia.

The NCAP also envisions setting up 1,000 manual air-quality-monitoring stations (a 45% increase from the present number) and 268 automatic stations (from 84 now). “Some cities submitted plans but didn’t fill out particulars, such as timelines, and so they had to be returned,” said Prashant Gargava, Member Secretary, CPCB, adding, “Only 30 of these cities are ready to roll out their plans on the ground.”

GS Prelims and Mains III

Manned space mission before 75th I-Day: ISRO chief

If everything goes according to plan, in 40 months, three Indians will be launched into space by an Indian rocket. This is the aim of India’s ambitious manned spaceflight mission, Gaganyaan, the contours of which were outlined by Dr. K. Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

  • Gaganyaan – India’s ambitious manned spaceflight mission
  • ISRO aims to launch three Indians into space by an Indian rocket (before the 75th Independence Day).
  • You must know

    ISRO will use its GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle, which has the necessary payload capability to launch Gaganyaan. Two unmanned missions will be undertaken prior to sending humans on the first manned flight within 30 months and manned mission in 40 months.

    Pieces of the Asian dream: India, China and Asia-pacific

    When the U.S. and China are caught up in geopolitical rivalry in the Asia-Pacific, all eyes are towards India, and strategic positioning India is gearing itself. In Singapore, India proclaimed her ambitions to garner influence in the Indo-Pacific region by increasing engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), developing friendship with China, maintaining cordial ties with Russia, pursuing interests with Australia and engaging more with the U.S.

    Tug of power

    The tug of power between India and China continues to impact sea lanes and chokepoints, with these two Asian giants pursuing interests in the littoral states spread across the Indo-Pacific.

    While India pursues influence through heightened diplomatic, bilateral and military engagement, China has started to garner influence through hard investments in cash-strapped littoral nations suffering from massive infrastructural deficits.

    China in Asia Pacific

    • The influence of China on certain ASEAN states like Cambodia has been such that during the 2016 ASEAN ministerial meeting, it refused to endorse the joint communiqué if it referred to the international court ruling against Beijing.
    • China is today Cambodia’s largest provider of foreign aid and has invested in dams, oilfields, highways, textile operations and mines.
    • Philippines have been seeking for harmonious relations with China, especially after 2016, when U.S. legislators blocked the sale of about 26,000 M4 rifles. Beijing provided rifles and guns to the Philippines police to fight against extremists in the city of Marawi.
    • ASEAN’s trade with China far surpasses that with India, and Chinese foreign direct investment in ASEAN is nine times higher than India’s.
    • China’s heavy investments in ASEAN nations have brought these nations closer into its orbit of influence to the point where despite an international ruling against its activities in the South China Sea (SCS), the ASEAN as a bloc agreed to cooperate with China on a Code of Conduct instead of pursuing the international ruling.
    • China’s multibillion dollar investments in Sri Lankan ports and cities have inched the country much closer to China, and last year Sri Lanka handed over its Hambantota port to China, on a 99-year lease.
    • Under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China has over the years promised billions to littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region to build a series of ports, something resource-constrained India will find difficult to match.

    India in Asia Pacific

    • The overt-assertiveness of China has driven many countries in East and Southeast Asia to seek friendship with India, and today Indonesia and Singapore are looking to bolster relations with India.
    • ASEAN has a cultural affinity with India with its shared religious diversity, ancient ties and a sizeable Indian diaspora in countries like Singapore and Malaysia.
    • After the U.S., India enjoys global soft power through its art, literature, music, dance and cinema.
    • India is perceived by many in East Asia as a friendly democracy, making the country a safe ally to have in the long run.
    • Japan has significantly increased its engagement with India and the two countries enjoy robust military ties.
    • India and Australia have initiated the ‘2+2’ dialogue signalling Canberra’s interest in deepening a maritime security partnership with India.
    • Although India enjoys cordial relationship with all ASEAN nations, it is unlikely that diplomatic hobnobbing alone will help garner the grouping’s support for its Indo-Pacific strategy against China’s raw cash power and growing military presence.
    • India also has so far failed to provide any concrete plans for its immediate neighbourhood in South Asia, with countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka demonstrating interest in partnering with China.
    • Souring of relations with Nepal due to the 2015 fuel blockade and failed strategic interventions in Sri Lanka have both undermined India’s regional leadership.

    General Studies 2

    The final frontier of populism?

    If a baker refuses to make a wedding cake for a same sex couple citing his religious beliefs, is that an exercise of religious liberty or a case of discrimination against homosexuals? The Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the U.S. ruled it was a case of discrimination. The baker moved the U.S. Supreme Court where he also argued that his refusal also involved a question of the freedom of expression. Creating a wedding cake was an artistic expression and he would not do that in support of a homosexual wedding.

    • Crucial constitutional questions are being fought in the highest courts in the world’s largest democracies.
    • If a baker refuses to make a wedding cake for a same sex couple citing his religious beliefs, is that an exercise of religious liberty or a case of discrimination against homosexuals? The Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the U.S. ruled it was a case of discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Colorado commission’s order.
    • The Indian Supreme Court is seized of the conflict between a religious belief and charges of discrimination in a case on Sabarimala, the Kerala temple where women of a particular age are not allowed entry.
    • When questions such as these come up in the context of executive or legislative action or inaction, it becomes the task of the judiciary to test them against the Constitution.

    There is a long-running debate on how the judiciary should interpret the Constitution. One school of thought, the originalists, believes that the constitutional text ought to be given the original meaning or intent that it would have at the time it was written. The evolutionists believe that the Constitution is a living document and the meaning of its text changes over time, as social attitudes change, and that the judges should interpret it accordingly. (Covered in detail: 28 August 2018 DNA)

    Tensions in a democracy

    • Judges are not impervious to public opinion but they are not meant to be its slaves either. They do not need to win popular votes. This one layer of insulation from instant public opinion enables the judiciary to be the guardian of the fundamental values of the society, which too change but over a longer period of time. The tensions between the legislative or executive branches and the judiciary are unavoidable, and to some extent desirable, in a democracy.
    • Varying degrees of judicial review provide a way to negotiate a balance between public opinion and values in democratic societies. In India, the judiciary can review even constitutional amendments.
    • When a society is in the midst of conflict over its elemental values, such tensions become more fraught. The legislative and executive branches are quicker in responding to people’s will and often, shaping it.
    • India also has seen such phase, when the judiciary resisted progressive legislative measures such as land reforms in the early years of the republic.
    • Those tensions continued all the way until an equilibrium was reached, with the Supreme Court establishing the concept of the basic structure of the Constitution in the 1970s.
    • At the core of the tensions between the judiciary and the more political branches was the search for a balance between justice and liberty, a perennial source of conflict in a democracy.