Daily Current Affairs – 20-05-2023

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    Delhi govt’s ordinance & the dispute over control of services

    Syllabus: GS2/Government Policies & Interventions

    In News

    • The President of India recently Promulgated the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023.

    More about the ordinance

    • About:
      • The Centre promulgated an Ordinance extending powers to the Delhi lieutenant governor over services in the administration of the national capital.
        • The powers are mainly to transfer and appoint bureaucrats posted to Delhi.
    • Significance:
      • The Ordinance is aimed at nullifying the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision that gave the Delhi government powers over administrative services in the national capital, raises several key questions– questions that are likely to soon be posed before the Supreme Court.
    • Creation of National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA):
      • The Ordinance creates a new statutory authority – the National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA). 
      • Composition:
        • NCCSA will be headed by the elected Chief Minister of Delhi in addition to the Chief Secretary and the Principal Secretary of the Home department
      • Role of NCCSA:
        • The NCCSA will make “recommendations” to the LG regarding “transfer posting, vigilance and other incidental matters.”
        • All matters required to be decided by the body shall be decided by “majority of votes of the members present and voting.” 
          • This means, that in effect, the decision of the elected chief minister of Delhi can be overruled by the two senior bureaucrats.  
        • Furthermore, in case the LG differs with the recommendation made, they would be empowered to “return the recommendation to the Authority for reconsideration” and, in case of continuing difference of opinion, “the decision of the Lieutenant Governor shall be final.” 
          • This effectively reverses the verdict delivered by the Supreme Court, which vested the Delhi government with final authority over the matter.

    About the dispute over control of services

    • About:
      • According to few, the Delhi government has no power over administrative services at all. 
      • Whereas according to others, transfers and postings of Secretaries, HODs and other officers in the scale of Joint Secretary to the Government of India and above can be done by the Lieutenant Governor and for other levels, including DANICS (Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service) officers, the files can be routed through the Chief Minister to LG”.
    • Centre’s opinion:
      • The Centre had sought a reference to a larger Bench, arguing that it needed the power to make transfers and postings of officers in Delhi on account of it being the national capital and the “face of nation”.
    • Opinion of Delhi government:
      • According to Delhi govt., a government cannot function if it does not have control over services as the exclusion of civil servants will negate governance and render officials unaccountable to people.

    Issue before the Supreme Court

    • Centre’s notification:
      • In 2015, a Union Home Ministry notification said that the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi shall exercise control over “services”. 
    • Appeal by the Delhi government:
      • The Delhi government challenged this before the Delhi High Court, which in 2017 upheld the notification. 
      • On appeal, a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court referred the issue to a larger constitution Bench.
    • Verdict of the Supreme Court:
      • The constitution benches:
        • Two constitution benches of the Supreme Court, in 2018 and on May 5, have dealt with the issue of the powers of the Delhi government. 
        • Both these judgements involve 
          • The interpretation of Article 239AA of the Constitution that deals with the governance structure of the national capital
      • The verdict:
        • The ruling places following constitutional principles within the interpretation of Article 239AA
          • Representative democracy, 
          • Federalism and accountability – to an elected government 
        • The court concluded that Delhi under the constitutional scheme is a Sui Generis (or unique) model, and is not similar to any other Union Territory. It said Delhi presents a special constitutional status under article 239AA.
          • The ruling was in favour of the Delhi government.
        • The judgement also recognises “principles of democracy and federalism” to be part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
          • It held that while Delhi could not be accorded the status of a state, the concept of federalism would still be applicable to it.

    Can a decision of the Supreme Court be undone?

    • The current ordinance takes away this power from the Delhi government and places it with a statutory body that comprises the chief minister of Delhi and the Chief Secretary and principal Home Secretary of the Delhi government.
      • Parliament has powers to undo the effect of a judgment of the Court by a legislative act
        • This means that a law can be passed removing the basis of the judgment. Such a law can be both retrospective or prospective.
        • However, the law cannot simply be contradictory to the Supreme Court judgment, it must address the underlying reasoning of the Court.
    • In case of basic structure:
      • Parliament cannot bring in a law, or even a Constitution amendment, that violates the basic structure of the Constitution.

    Article 239 AA  & Special Status of Delhi 

    • Article 239 AA was inserted in the Constitution by the 69th Amendment Act, 1991, and conferred Special Status upon Delhi following the recommendations of the S Balakrishnan Committee
      • The committee was set up in 1987 to look into Delhi’s demands for statehood.
      • Provisions:
        • According to this provision, the NCT of Delhi will have an Administrator and a Legislative Assembly. 
        • Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the Legislative Assembly, “shall have the power to make laws for the whole or any part of the NCT with respect to any of the matters in the State List or Concurrent List in so far as any such matter is applicable to Union territories” except on the subjects of police, public order, and land.
    • Article 239AB provides that the President may by order suspend the operation of any provision of Article 239AA or of all or any of the provisions of any law made in pursuance of that article. This provision resembles Article 356 (President’s Rule).

    Source: TH

     

    India’s Women in Science

    Syllabus: GS3/ Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology

    In News

    • Recent data from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) showed women made up 28% of participants in 2018-19 in extramural Research and Development (R&D) projects, up from 13% in 2000-01.

    About

    • The proportion of women primary investigators in R&D increased more than four times — from 232 in 2000-01 to 941 in 2016-17. The proportion of women researchers rose from 13.9% in 2015 to 18.7% in 2018.
    • In 2008, the Indian Academy of Sciences published Lilavati’s Daughters: The Women Scientists of India, a volume capturing the journeys of nearly 100 Indian women in science.
    • In 2016, Aashima Dogra and Nandita Jayaraj launched the website thelifeofscience.com that would profile the stories of women and non-binary people in science in India. It would serve the dual purpose of throwing up role models for a younger generation and shedding light on the constraints that discourage diversity at India’s premier institutes and labs.

    Women scientists of India

    • Anandibai Joshi (India’s first woman physician), Janaki Ammal (first Indian scientist to have received the Padma Shri Award in 1977), Iravati Karve (India’s first woman anthropologist), Kamala Sohonie (first Indian woman to have bagged a PhD degree in the scientific discipline), Rajeshwari Chatterjee (First woman engineer from the state of Karnataka), Kalpana Chawla (first astronaut of Indian origin to have forayed into the space), and V R Lalithambika (leading the Gaganyaan mission).

    What are the obstacles that hold women back?

    • Familial issues:
      • Lack of representation, deeply entrenched patriarchy.
      • Women tend to drop out when they get married or have children.
      • These reasons are attributed to dropout from higher studies, career break, overage for scientific jobs and prolonged absence from place of work or even resignation from the job. 
    • Institutional Issues: 
      • Poor working conditions and sexual harassment at workplaces.
    • Drop at the post-doctoral level: 
      • We have observed that participation (of women) is healthy till the postgraduate level. But there is a drop at the post-doctoral level, where most of the research takes place.
    • Participation in IIT’s:
      • The rate of women’s participation is particularly low across the five IITs in Delhi, Mumbai, Kanpur, Chennai, and Roorkee ranging from 9% to 14%.

    Measures Taken by the Government

    • Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI):
      • It is a pilot project under the Department of Science and Technology to promote gender equity in science and technology.
      • In the first phase of GATI, 30 educational and research institutes have been selected by DST, with a focus on women’s participation in leadership roles, faculty, and the number of women students and researchers. 
    • Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN): 
      • It is a plan under the Department of Science and Technology to encourage women scientists and also prevent women scientists from giving up research due to family reasons. 
    • SERB-POWER (Promoting Opportunities for Women in Exploratory Research):
      • SERB – POWER provides structured support in research to ensure equal access and weighted opportunities for Indian women scientists engaged in R&D activities. 
      • The R&D support to women scientists is provided through two components, namely: SERB POWER Fellowships & SERB POWER Research Grants.
    • Consolidation of University Research through Innovation and Excellence in Women Universities (CURIE) Programme:
      • Only women Universities are being supported for the development of research infrastructure and the creation of state-of-the-art research laboratories to enhance women’s participation in the S & T domain.
    • Indo-US Fellowship for Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics & Medicine):
      • It encourages Indian women scientists and technologists to undertake international collaborative research in premier institutions in the USA for a duration of 3-6 months.
    • Vigyan Jyoti Scheme:
      • It encourages girl students of Class 9 to 12 to pursue education and career in S&T, particularly in the areas where women are underrepresented.
    • National Award for woman scientist:
      • To recognize the contribution of women scientists in the field of Earth System Sciences, Ministry of Earth Sciences has initiated a special award called “National Award for woman scientist” which is conferred to one-woman scientist each year on the Foundation Day.
    • Setting up of creches:
      • Some institutions are setting up creches so that the scientist mothers can carry on with their research work uninterrupted. 

    Conclusion

    • For a better tomorrow, we need to empower women in STEM, as it helps women pursue their dreams, and science, businesses, society and therefore, nations would gain immensely from their equal representation.

    Source: IE

     

    Arsenic Contamination in Groundwater 

    Syllabus: GS 2/Health 

    In News

    • A recent peer-reviewed study suggests that low levels of arsenic consumption may impact cognitive function in children, adolescents, and young adults.

    About Arsenic 

    • It is a natural component of the earth’s crust and is widely distributed throughout the environment in the air, water, and land. 
    • It is highly toxic in its inorganic form.
    • It is naturally present at high levels in the groundwater of several countries.
      • In India, the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, and Chhattisgarh are reported to be most affected by arsenic contamination of groundwater above the permissible level.

    Exposure 

    • People are exposed to elevated levels of inorganic arsenic through drinking contaminated water, using contaminated water in food preparation and irrigation of food crops, industrial processes, eating contaminated food, and smoking tobacco.

    Effects on health 

    • Contaminated water used for drinking, food preparation, and irrigation of food crops poses the greatest threat to public health from arsenic.
    • Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking water and food can cause cancer and skin lesions.
    • It has also been associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes
    • In-utero and early childhood exposure have been linked to negative impacts on cognitive development and increased deaths in young adults.
    • Those exposed to arsenic had reduced grey matter (brain tissue that is vital to cognitive functions) and weaker connections within key regions of the brain that enable concentration, switching between tasks, and temporary storage of information.

    Prevention and Control

    • The most important action in affected communities is the prevention of further exposure to arsenic by the provision of a safe water supply for drinking, food preparation, and irrigation of food crops. 
    • Substitute high-arsenic sources, such as groundwater, with low-arsenic, microbiologically safe sources such as rainwater and treated surface water.
    • Low-arsenic water can be used for drinking, cooking, and irrigation purposes, whereas high-arsenic water can be used for other purposes such as bathing and washing clothes.
    • Discriminate between high-arsenic and low-arsenic sources.
    • Blend low-arsenic water with higher-arsenic water to achieve an acceptable arsenic concentration level.
    • Install arsenic removal systems – either centralized or domestic – and ensure the appropriate disposal of the removed arsenic. 
    • Long-term actions are also required to reduce occupational exposure from industrial processes.
    • Education and community engagement are key factors for ensuring successful interventions. There is a need for community members to understand the risks of high arsenic exposure and the sources of arsenic exposure.

    Global Efforts 

    • WHO response: Arsenic is one of WHO’s 10 chemicals of major public health concern.
      • WHO’s work to reduce arsenic exposure includes setting guideline values, reviewing evidence, and providing risk management recommendations. 
      • WHO publishes a guideline value for arsenic in its Guidelines for drinking-water quality. 
    • The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene monitors progress towards global targets on drinking water. 
      • Under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the indicator of “safely managed drinking water services” calls for tracking the population accessing drinking water which is free of fecal contamination and priority chemical contaminants, including arsenic.

    India’s Initiatives 

    • Since the 1990s, both the Central and State governments in Bihar and West Bengal have sought to address arsenic contamination. 
    • C-Veda (Consortium on Vulnerability to Externalizing Disorders and Addictions) is an India-United Kingdom research initiative, spanning several universities.
      • It aims to evaluate the effect of risk – whether biological and environmental – on cognitive development and also compare these effects across people in industrializing (India) and industrialized (United Kingdom) societies. 
      • This also includes mapping the brains of those participating in the study and thereby evaluating and comparing neurological development.

    Source:TH

     

    RBI Withdraws Circulation of ?2000 Notes

    Syllabus: GS3/ Indian Economy & related issues

    In News

    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to withdraw the Rs 2000 denomination banknotes from circulation. 

    RBI’s Circular

    • The notes will continue as legal tender. The RBI has advised banks to stop issuing Rs 2,000 denomination banknotes with immediate effect and all Rs 2,000 currency notes must be exchanged before September 30, 2023.
    • The RBI has advised people to approach bank branches for deposit and/or exchange of these banknotes. 
    • One can exchange Rs 2000 banknotes up to a limit of Rs 20,000 at a time. A non-account holder of a bank also can exchange Rs 2000 banknotes up to a limit of Rs 20,000 at a time at any bank branch.

    Why were Rs 2000 notes introduced?

    • The Rs 2000 note was introduced in November 2016 under Section 24(1) of The RBI Act, 1934, primarily with the objective of meeting the currency requirement of the economy after the legal tender status of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes was withdrawn. 

    Why has the RBI withdrawn Rs 2000 notes?

    • Initial Objective has been met: With the fulfillment of the objective of other adequate stock of banknotes in other denominations to meet currency requirements, the printing of Rs 2000 notes was stopped in 2018-19. 
    • Clean Note Policy: The ‘Clean Note Policy’ of the Reserve Bank of India, it has been decided to withdraw the Rs 2000 denomination banknotes from circulation.
      • The Clean Note Policy seeks to give the public good-quality currency notes and coins with better security features, while soiled notes are withdrawn out of circulation. 
      • The RBI had earlier decided to withdraw from circulation all banknotes issued prior to 2005 as they have fewer security features as compared to banknotes printed after 2005.
      • However, the notes issued before 2005 continue to be legal tender. They have only been withdrawn from circulation in conformity with the standard international practice of not having notes of multiple series in circulation at the same time.
    • Concerns of hoarding: The move comes amid concerns of the highest denomination notes being used to hoard black money. 

    Source: IE

     

    Mand-Pishin Border Sustenance Marketplace

    Syllabus: GS2/International Relations

    In News

    • In a bid to boost cross-border trade, Pakistan and Iran inaugurated the first border market at the Mand-Pashin crossing point of the Pakistan-Iran border.

    About

    • Both the  leaders also launched an electricity transmission line, which will provide some of Pakistan’s remote regions with Iranian-generated electricity.
    • The decision to open border markets was first taken by the two countries in 2021, when they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish six such facilities. 

    Marketplace on the border between Iran-Pakistan

    • The Mand-Pishin Border Sustenance Marketplace, is one of the six border markets to be constructed along the Pakistan-Iran border. 
    • It would enhance cross-border trade, foster economic growth and open up new avenues of opportunity for local businesses.
    • The Mand-Pishin border has a long history with Mand being a hub for small-scale border business owners from across Balochistan, especially those connected with the food and beverage businesses in Kech and Gwadar districts. 
    • The town has several large storage houses, where goods such as food and beverage commodities are imported, stored and then distributed across Balochistan and other provinces of Pakistan.

    Why have Pakistan and Iran decided to inaugurate the border market now?

    • The joint inauguration is a manifestation of the strong commitment of Pakistan and Iran to uplift the welfare of residents of the neighbouring provinces of Balochistan and Sistan-o-Baluchestan, respectively. 
    • It also serves as a significant stride forward in the bilateral relationship between the two countries.
    • The inauguration of the two projects has come at a time when the political landscape of the West Asia region is changing, especially after the China-brokered re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran this year. 
    • With ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran becoming less tense, the latest development can be seen as an attempt by Pakistan to further solidify their bond in order to tackle their ongoing economic crises and improve border security.

    Overview of Pakistan and Iran Relations

    • Instability in Relations: Iran is Shia-majority country whereas Pakistan is a Sunni-dominated country and both the countries never had a steady relationship and the relations further deteriorated post Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979.
    • Cross border attacks and insurgency: In recent years, the ties between both countries further deteriorated due to cross-border attacks by Pakistani militants along their shared border.
      • Small separatist groups have been behind a long-running insurgency calling for Baluchistan’s independence from the Pakistani government.
      • Pakistani anti-Iran militants have also targeted the Iranian border in recent years, increasing the friction between the two countries.
    • Improvement in relations: Despite these differences, the two countries haven’t ever completely severed their ties. And now, they seem to be improving their relationship to deal with common issues such as their respective economic crises — Iran’s finances are dwindling due to stringent sanctions imposed by the United States and Pakistan has failed to deal with inflation.
      • Another reason for their new-found closeness could be the normalisation of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran. 
    • Relations with China: The entry of China as a diplomatic player in West Asia can also be a factor. Both Iran and Pakistan share a strong relationship with China and, therefore, it becomes obligatory for them to remain cordial with each other.

    Source: IE

     

    Sapre Committee 

    Syllabus: GS 2/Government Policies and Interventions 

    In News

    • The Supreme Court made public the report of the court-appointed expert panel in the Hindenburg-Adani row case.

    About  Justice A.M. Sapre committee 

    • It is a six-member expert committee constituted by the Supreme Court in the Hindenburg-Adani allegations case and headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice A.M. Sapre.
    • Panel findings: It gave the Supreme Court a detailed assessment of the situation which could have led to volatility in the securities market due to the Hindenburg-Adani row. 
      • The committee also looked at two other issues — investor awareness and whether there was any regulatory failure that led to the conclusions drawn by the Hindenburg report.
      • It found that there was no evidence of a “regulatory failure” on the part of SEBI. 
        • However, it acknowledged that there is a need for an effective enforcement policy.

    Source: TH