26th September 2018, Current Affairs and News Analysis for UPSC Civil Service Examination, SSC CGL and State Civil Service Examinations.

26th September 2018 - Current Affairs for UPSC IAS and State Civil Service Exam

Governance/Health/Social

NTBN Panel approves nutrition norms

India’s top nutrition panel has recommended that severely malnourished children must be fed freshly cooked food prepared from locally available cereals, pulses and vegetables, and distributed by anganwadi centres, as part of the country’s first-ever guidelines for nutritional management of children suffering from severe acute

Background

  • The National Technical Board on Nutrition (NTBN) has approved guidelines proposed by Women and Child Development Ministry for severe acute malnutrition.
  • The measures are part of the community-based health management of children suffering from SAM.
  • The government had, till now, only put in place guidelines for the hospitalisation of severely wasted children who develop medical complications. Those norms were made public in 2011.

Guidelines for workers

  • The guidelines outline the role of anganwadi workers and auxillary nurse midwives (ANMs) in identifying severely wasted children, segregating those with oedema or medical complications and sending them to the nearest health facility or nutrition rehabilitation centres.
  • The remaining children are enrolled into community-based management, which includes provision of nutrition, continuous monitoring of growth, administration of antibiotics and micro-nutrients as well as counselling sessions and imparting of nutrition and health education.
  • According to the recommendations, anganwadi workers have to provide modified morning snacks, hot cooked meals and take home ration for SAM children.
  • The morning snacks and hot-cooked meals, which are served at anganwadis to children between the age of three to six years, should be prepared freshly and served at the centralised kitchen/ anganwadi centres.
  • Locally available cereals, pulses, green leafy vegetables and tubers, vitamin C rich fruits, as well as fresh milk and 3-4 eggs every week have also been prescribed.
  • Importantly, the government has also revised the method to be used to measure wasting and advised calculating weight based on the height of children instead of the mid-upper arm circumference.

About National Technical Board on Nutrition (NTBN)

  • It has been constituted to make technical recommendations on policy-relevant issues on nutrition.
  • The role of the board is advisory in nature.
  • It has to advise the states and UTs on preventive measures and management of SAM children.
  • The board has to coordinate the collation, synthesis of existing scientific and operational research, identify research gaps and make technical recommendations for the research agenda.
  • It has to provide technical guidance on the design of nutrition surveys proposed by the states/UTs, other sectors and institutions and their coherence with ongoing National Health and other surveys.
  • It has to formulate India specific growth indicators including stunting.

Bilateral Relation/IR

Yameen concedes defeat in Maldives presidential poll

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen conceded defeat in the presidential election, making way for the joint Opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Senior parliamentarian of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Mr. Solih secured 58.3% of the votes, while Mr. Yameen obtained 41.7%.

Yameen concedes defeat in Maldives presidential poll

Background

  • The election comes after the Indian Ocean Archipelago, home to over four lakh people, plunged into a political crisis, triggered by Mr. Yameen declaring an Emergency in February.
  • About 2,60,000 voters were registered to vote in the presidential election that drew considerable international attention, amid concerns over the Yameen government’s apparent retreat from democracy.
    • Maldives President Abdulla Yameen conceded defeat in the presidential election, making way for the joint Opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
    • Senior parliamentarian of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Mr. Solih secured 58.3% of the votes, while Mr. Yameen obtained 41.7%.

India's Reaction

  • India has welcomed the result of the Maldives’ presidential election and heartily congratulated the winning candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the President-elect, and expressed support for better ties.
  • The two leaders agreed to work closely together to further strengthen the close, friendly and good neighbourly relations between the two countries.
  • Earlier, in a statement, the Ministry said the election process amounted to a triumph of democracy in the country where public election was established a decade ago.
  • The election marks not only the triumph of democratic forces in the Maldives but also reflects the firm commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law.
  • In keeping with ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’, India looks forward to working closely with the Maldives in further deepening the partnership, the statement said.

India at the United Nation Ganeral Assembly

  • India called off the planned meeting with Pakistan in New York ahead of the United Nations General Assembly's annual session.
  • In this backdrop, it is essential that India looks beyond Pakistan and engage with structural changes in the international system.

How have the roles changed?

  • There was a time when the voices of both Pakistan and India mattered on the world stage.
  • Pakistan was a key member of the Western alliance system in Asia.
  • It rightly saw itself as a pragmatic Islamic nation capable of exercising influence in the Middle East.
  • It had the prospects of acting as a bridge between America and China.
  • But today, Pakistan’s diminished diplomacy drags on the Kashmir issue.
  • India’s political voice too mattered a lot at the UN, long back, when its economic weight was rather limited.
  • India is now on its growing economic prominence and expanding global footprint.
  • But despite this, India seems obsessed with a few issues rather than engage with the larger international issues.

Why has India become so?

  • India persists with the quest for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council, when all indications are that it is unlikely to happen.
  • It has also devoted too much energy in the pursuit of the international convention against terrorism.
  • However, this is unlikely to do very much in addressing India’s security challenges.
  • More so, the UN resolutions are honoured by nations more in breach than in observance.
  • What have benefited India are key partnerships on counter-terrorism. E.g. with the US and Arab Gulf partners
  • This is more workable than the endorsement of general principles under multilateralism.

Why should India look beyond Pakistan?

  • India's relationship with Pakistan is not in its god phase at present.
  • India blamed ‘Pakistan-based entities’ for the recent killing of three special police officers in Kashmir.
  • The prospect of a diplomatic encounter between India and Pakistan has remained a focus in many multilateral gatherings.
  • For more than two decades now, this question seems to sensationalize the Indian public interest in multilateral gatherings.
  • The strained relations have deepened the inability of the two countries to engage with the larger global issues.
  • So if India looks beyond Pakistan, terrorism and a UNSC seat, it could discuss much more in the UN.

What are the global issues to be resolved?

  • Sovereignty - The foremost is balancing between the questions of sovereignty and multilateralism.
  • Defending sovereignty was a key priority in India’s UN diplomacy since the end of the Cold War.
  • This is now being revived by the developments in regards with the decision of U.S. President Donald Trump.
  • E.g. withdrawal from the Paris agreement, the UN Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the UN Human Rights Council, etc
  • The essence of Trump’s “America First” has been the promise to liberate US from the “globalist trap”.
  • He insists that he will not let multilateral organisations restrain America’s pursuit of its national interests.
  • Given these, sovereignty will once again be the dominant theme in this year's session.
  • Global Trade - Trump is threatening to pull out of the WTO and choking its dispute-settlement mechanism.
  • Key trading nations are already beginning to respond with proposals for reform.
  • If it does not change, the WTO and the international order in trade may not survive the Trump era.
  • Middle East - Trump is making big moves in the Middle East that breaks away from the conventional thinking on the region.
  • He has ended the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran negotiated by the Obama administration.
  • He is promising to press for a change in “regime behaviour” in Iran.
  • There is also effort on constructing a new Middle East Security Alliance of Arab nations threatened by Iran.

What lies before India?

  • The geopolitics of the Gulf region is undergoing unprecedented change.
  • This is a significant concern for India as it has massive economic and political stakes there.
  • A similar issue is the world trading system and the nature of multilateralism.
  • India’s diplomatic engagements at the UN should be about crafting a new strategy to address these challenges.

Polity

Governor’s discretion

The discretionary powers of the Governor are once again at the centre of a fresh controversy to decide on the remission of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Pardoning powers of Governor

  • It is important to note that Article 161 of the Constitution provides the Governor with the power to “remit or commute the sentence of any prisoner”.
  • However, the Governor’s decision will be subject to judicial review by the constitutional courts.
  • Currently, the immediate question is whether there is an independent, discretionary power vested with the Governor with regard to Articles 161 and 163 of the Constitution.

Prior Precedents:

  • In the Nabam Rebia and Bamang Felix v. Deputy Speaker (2016) case, the  Supreme Court, speaking through a five-judge Bench, viewed that the discretionary power of the Governor is extremely limited and entirely amenable to judicial review.
  • Time and again, the courts have spoken out against the Governor acting in the capacity of an “all-pervading super-constitutional authority”.
  • Pertaining to the exercise of discretion, in Samsher Singh v. State of Punjab (1974), a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had held that the Governor may do so only “in harmony with his Council of Ministers”.  
  • In an effort to do so, the Governor is prevented from taking a stand against the wishes of the Council of Ministers.
  • Currently, the domain being traversed in this case is alien to the Constitution of India, not having envisaged a situation where the Governor exercises his power under Article 161 against the express recommendation of the Council of Ministers.

Conclusion

  • Decision taken by governor contrary to advise conferred by council of ministers, may drastically alter the Constitution and its founding principles; the federal structure, Cabinet responsibility and accountable governance.
  • This might also be interpreted as the Governor having lost faith in the State government with regard to the performance of its executive functions.
  • Either which way, it is believed that to stay true to the spirit of the Constitution, the Governor should desist from conferring discretionary powers to his office where there are none.

SC to rule on barring accused in heinous crimes from polls

A five-judge Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, scheduled to pronounce its judgment on petitions to bar politicians facing charges of heinous crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping, from contesting elections.

  • The Bench, including Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Rohinton Nariman, D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, had made it clear that the Supreme Court could not legislate for Parliament.
  • Chief Justice Misra had pointed out the urgency to do something to keep criminals at bay and prevent them from contesting elections.
  • The Chief Justice had voiced the Supreme Court’s anguish at the helplessness of society to prevent criminalisation of politics at the very entry-point itself.
  • The CJI had pointed out that Parliament was obliged under Article 102 (1) (e) (talks about disqualification to stand as a candidate for election to the Lok Sabha from a Parliamentary Constituency) to make a law.
  • Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal had submitted that fast-track courts to try cases against politicians was the only solution.

Background

  • Under the Representation of the People Act, convicted lawmakers are disqualified, but not those facing charges.

Centre to issue warnings on lynchings

The Centre assured the Supreme Court that the Union and State governments would, within a week, start broadcasting on radio and TV a stern message that mob lynchings and violence would invite the “wrath of law”.

The Centre’s promise came in response to a query by a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on whether the court’s directions on the matter had been complied with.

Background

On July 17, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre and the State governments to disseminate using radio, television and other media platforms, including the official websites of the Home Department and through State police, the message that “lynching and mob violence of any kind shall invite serious consequences under the law”.

Way forward

  • People must be made to realise the gravity of their acts, and for this, they ought to dread the long arm of the law.
  • An empowered Group of Ministers is considering a specific law against lynching.

Ecology

Citizen science initiative helps save hornbills

A recent citizen science initiative of documenting Indian hornbills is providing valuable inputs for the conservation of this unique bird.

Citizen science initiative helps save hornbills

The Hornbill Watch initiative

  • The Hornbill Watch initiative (www.hornbills.in) is an interactive web interface that allows a person to report on hornbills anywhere in India. People can record the observation of a live hornbill, note its call or report a dead, hunted or captive bird.
  • The data on the presence of hornbills outside protected areas would be crucial in identifying and protecting their habitats from possible threats and development projects.
  • States from where the most sightings were recorded are Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Hornbills were reported from across 70 protected areas in the country. While 41% of the observations were made within protected areas, 59% were made outside.

Nine hornbill species in India

  • The endangered Narcondam hornbill is restricted to an area of 6 sq.km. of the Narcondam Island in the Andamans.
  • The rufous-necked hornbill is a vulnerable or near threatened species.
  • Further, the Austen’s brown hornbill and the great hornbill were observed in several States in northeastern India.
  • Other important species of hornbill include the oriental pied hornbill and the Indian grey hornbill.