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9 PM Daily Brief – 21 March 2016

Brief of newspaper articles for the day bearing
relevance to Civil Services preparation

What is 9 PM brief?


GS PAPER 2


[1]. Criticism of the nation is not acceptable: Prime Minister

The Hindu

Event

BJP National Executive Meeting

What was said?

Freedom of expression and nationalism do necessarily co-exist but freedom of speech and expression gives no right to destroy the nation.

The government is open to the criticism but the criticism of the nation is not acceptable, as these are two completely different things.

Party to celebrate Panchayati Raj Day on 24 April.0

 

[2]. Hill country Tamils don’t want to be called “Indian Tamils”

The Hindu

Issue

Tamils in Sri Lanka do not want to be called “Indian Tamils”

Reason

According to them, it is a source of political and administrative discrimination and social antipathy.

They want this issue to be resolved while constitutional reforms are going.

A report on the Issue of identity

The community must be called “Indian-Origin Malayaha Thamilar (IOMT)”.

It also talked of creating a district by re-organising the existing district of Nuwera Eliya (Central Province) and linking it with other contiguously-located areas of other districts where IOMTs have higher concentration.

It does not favour the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

It also suggested the establishment of non-territorial council for IOMTs, consisting of elected and nominated representatives of the community.

It describes Sri Lanka as “a union of Provinces/regions”, and seeks maximum devolution.

[3] Beyond life and death

Indian Express

Issue

Tamil Nadu Government has asked for Union Government’s opinion on the release of the seven persons convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. And it has  generated a debate that those who speak against the barbarism of death penalty should also realise the dehumanising effect of “imprisonment without remission”.

Clarification on “Imprisonment”

In Sriharan Vs Union, the  Supreme Court has said that “imprisonment means end of one’slife, subject to any remission granted by the appropriate government” as per the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Clarification on “Remission”

If you have been imprisoned and part of your sentence is remitted, this means that you do not have to remain in prison for the full period of your sentence.

The state must get the Centre’s concurrence in remission cases involving conviction under a Central act or prosecution by a Central agency.

Does imprisonment for life meant the “rest of one’s life” without any right to claim remission?

One view (majority) is that court can award “punishment of imprisonment for life” and “put that category beyond application of remission”.

Opposite view(minority) considers whether a prisoner can be “condemned to live in prison till the last breath without there being even a ray of hope to come out”. So  such a situation would “not be conducive to reformation” , there should be some scope for remission.

Towards a Humane civil society

All over the civilised world, “theory of reformation and rehabilitation” is preferred over the theories of “retribution and deterrence”.

In Shatrugan Chouhan vs Union,Supreme Court liberally interpreted the right to life to commute death sentences on account of delay in deciding mercy petitions in a number of cases.

Law Commission of India has recommended the abolition of death penalty for all but two offences.

All life sentence prisoners who have completed the minimum mandatory sentence must be assessed by a prison board, it would assist the reformation process and help re-integrate offenders back in to society.

Offenders must be sent to prison for correction, not condemnation.

As a society, we must evolve towards a penalogical system, which is more humane.

[4] A stranger in one’s own land

Indian Express

Issue

Implications of the Enemy Property Ordinance.

Enemy Property Act

Following the Indo-Pak war in 1965,the Enemy Property Act, 1968, was made,according to which properties of citizens belonging to the “enemy” country were taken over by the governments of both India and Pakistan and temporarily vested in a custodian.

The intention of the original act was to maintain and preserve the properties during the war.

The 1968 act upholds the title of the original owner. This was subsequently confirmed by many courts of law.

Ordinance routes

In 2010,  the government suddenly brought in an ordinance seeking to retrospectively change the original act of 1968.

The new ordinance/ bill is more draconian than the one in 2010.

It retrospectively rewrites the act of 1968 and renders all judgments made on the basis of the original act null and void.

Why is the purpose of the Ordinance

The reason for the promulgation of the ordinance has been that the custodian finds it difficult to do his job because of an increase in the number of legal cases related to “enemy property”.

Now, the “enemy property” will no longer be subject to judicial scrutiny.

Implications of the new ordinance

It seeks to undo decades of legal proceedings with little care for all the effort that countless Indians had spent on getting justice.

Essentially, it closes the door to judicial recourse and transforms a “custodian” to “owner” as it mandates the government to sell all these properties.

Enemy “redefined”

The most insidious aspect of the ordinance is that the very meaning of “enemy” has been redefined.

The definition of “enemy” now includes Indian citizens who happen to be the legal heirs of people who went to Pakistan.

Sadly, the new amendments make some Indian citizens’ identities wholly contingent on whether a relative went to Pakistan.

The 2016 bill will make many citizens,strangers in their own country.

[5] The politics of water

Livemint

World Water Day, on 22 March

Availability of freshwater is increasingly a defining strategic factor in regional and global affairs.

United Nations World Water Development Report highlighted how the growing gap between supply and demand could create conflict

The World Economic Forum has ranked water crises as the most worrying global threat

It happens when Regional cooperation is lacking among countries. There are many examples like:

West Asia (Iraq, Syria and Turkey have fought for Tigris and Euphrates rivers) It is also an example of poor governance.

Solution

Supranational organisation to manage drought, coordinate crop patterns, develop common standards to monitor river flows and implement investment plans to create livelihoods and develop water-treatment technologies.

Many countries have done this like Africa, South East Asia and Latin America.

One step towards cooperation

UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

“ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”

This also include “expand international cooperation”

Cooperation include many things like infrastructure projects, managing floods and droughts, developing an integrated strategy to combat climate change, ensuring the quality of water courses and holding regular summits to negotiate trade-offs between water and other public goods.

One thing is crucial that it extend to cover every shared river basin in the world. Target year is 2030.

Benefits of transboundary cooperation

  1. no delays on building infrastructure
  2. Costs are saved
  3. Benefits are shared in an optimum way

What to do to encourage countries to join the cooperations?

creating financial instruments that make concessional and preferential funds available

Road ahead

UN should create a peacekeeping force and laws should be meant to prevent, not just resolve, conflict.

[6] Aadhar: Fact and Fiction

Livemint

Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016 is passed

Aadhaar is a detailed personal information—which if it lands in wrong hands could be put to immense misuse?

YES

Will Aadhaar number of someone be used to authenticate the claim?

Yes But No other information is exchanged nor can it be sought; and now with Aadhaar enjoying statutory backing, it will be illegal to do so.

Will foreigners will have Aadhaar number?

YES Every one who is resident of India can have Aadhaar numbers But this does not give them citizenship.

Are there any concerns about privacy?

YES But then, they are considerably reduced with the passage of the Aadhaar legislation.

Conclusion

Let the legislation on privacy to come

[7] Japan says India’s nuclear MoU “legally binding”

The Hindu

Issue

Interpretation of India’s nuclear MoU(Memorandum of Understanding)  according to Japan.

According to Japan

Under the  (MoU) on civil nuclear cooperation with Japan, India had committed to adhere to the 1.Control of nuclear material,

  1. Traceability [of nuclear fuel] and
  2.  Consequence in case of a nuclear accident.

India-Japan MoU marked the first occasion when India came under legal obligation to uphold non-proliferation concerns.

Reaction in India

Experts warn that the agreed principles impinge on India’s independent nuclear programme as they imply intrusive inspection of civilian nuclear reactors as warranted under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

According to a diplomat, it is nothing extraordinary and were part of the “standard template for civil nuclear deal” that India had signed with several countries.

Nuclear experts describe the MoU as a “backdoor attempt to draw India into the NPT”.

Implications of such understanding

It may destabilise India’s established nuclear deals with Russia and France as they too may demand similar commitments previously denied to them.

Official Provision

The official template of nuclear deal did not contain provisions that might empower outside powers to carry out inspection to trace nuclear fuel in India.

 


GS PAPER 3


[1]. National Green Tribunal seeks Centre’s response on ban of Microplastics

The Hindu

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are small plastic particles in the environment that are generally smaller than 1 mm (0.039 in) down to the micrometer range. They can come from a variety of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes.

Problems

Causing severe water pollution, what adds to the problem is the unregulated production and usage of plastics in microbeads

An application is filed in NGT to ban these pollutants.

National Green Tribunal

issued notices to the Union health, environment and water resources ministries seeking their comments on what has been done to identify and curb this growing threat.

There is no effective way to remove microplastics once it is in the environment.

use of microbeads used as “scrubbers” in cosmetics products

Organisms affected

marine organisms including deposit and suspension feeders, crustaceans, fish, marine mammals, and seabirds

Presence of microbeads in other products like

Salt

Toothpaste (can get stuck in our gums and lead to cancer)

Conclusion

If they get into our food chains they carry chemical compounds which are extremely dangerous and are cancer causing contaminants.

[2].Dept. of biotechnology launches fund to tackle anti-microbial resistance

The Hindu

Why?
To encourage biotechnology start-ups.

To tackle threat faced by  India from resistance to antimicrobial drugs.

How?

Department of Biotechnology (DBT) — through the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) — has invested an initial $1,00,000 to start an India-focussed seed fund to help groups in India compete for the Longitude Prize.

What is Longitude prize?

This is a £ 10 million prize offered by Nesta, a U.K. charity, to any individual group anywhere in the world that develops an affordable, effective diagnostic test to detect resistance to microbes.

Need for it

India faces increasing instances of tuberculosis patients being resistant to front line drugs.

Experts say this is due to lax monitoring and profligate prescription by medical authorities that allow these drugs to be easily available and over a period of time, they developed immunity.

National Biotechnology Development Strategy to launch four missions in

  • Healthcare
  • Food and nutrition
  • Clean energy
  • Education

[3] Smart rate cut in small savings scheme

The Hindu

Issue

Government has slashed interest rates on several Centrally sponsored saving schemes.

Objective

To align these interest rates with the market rates.

Story behind it

Last week, US Federal Reserve decided to keep its policy rates unchanged.

So, it means RBI can lower its policy rates in the upcoming review.

And banks can pass on the benefits to the customers. Till now, they were not able to do so, because they faced stiff competition from these small saving schemes.

Who will be affected (negatively) by this decision?

  1. Senior citizens
  2. Salaried middle class

Which are the schemes that will be affected?

  • Public Provident Fund (PPF)
  • Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP)
  • National Saving Certificates (NSC) and many more such schemes.

What does these schemes offered?

  • Assured returns for the salaried sections
  • Savings habit among people
  • Act as  social security nets, specially for girls and senior citizens

Conclusion

It is a bold move and government has taken decision from realistic perspective rather than populist perspective. And it will inevitably usher in a competitive cost structure in the economy for the greater public good.

[4] Stand up to patent bullying

The Hindu

Issue
India should not let its establishment dictated by the US bureaucracy in matters of patents.

How does US dictate India?

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has used the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), to repeatedly criticise India.

It is in complete disregard of the impact on India’s sovereignty and public health.

The issuance of notices by USTR for submissions by industry and convening public hearings of sovereign nations are all acts leading towards escalation of tensions.

This mode of functioning has allowed  the U.S. to unilaterally exert pressure indirectly to amend laws or cease fair implementation of local laws although the U.S. has agreed to multilaterally resolve all disputes.

India pacifying USA and compromising health concerns

India has attempted to pacify US by instituting a committee to create a National Intellectual Property Rights policy long after the statutes were amended to become compliant with the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

It will take Indian generic industry on a suicidal path.

Compulsory License

A compulsory license provides that the owner of a patent or copyright licenses the use of their rights against payment either set by law or determined through some form of adjudication or arbitration.

This is an exception to the general rule under intellectual property laws that the intellectual property owner enjoys exclusive rights that it may license – or decline to license – to others.

In India, Compulsory licenses can be granted on following grounds

Satisfying the reasonable requirements of the public with respect to the patented invention

Ensuring availability to the public at reasonable price

Meeting the demand for the patented product

Tackling national public health emergencies, etc.

Conclusion

Compulsory licensing forms a part of a larger package of flexibilities that India negotiated at WTO and now we  cannot afford to forget or renege from such concessions.

We should stop engaging U.S. bureaucrats as patent consultants and instead showcase the Indian patent statute as an exemplar for a balanced patent regime to the rest of the developing world.

[5] Bad news from Beijing

Indian Express

Economic indicators in China

  • Its main stock market index (the Shanghai Stock Exchange) has fallen consistently.
  • The Chinese currency renminbi is losing value.
  • Foreign exchange reserves are depleting because of capital flight.
  • China’s total debt-to-GDP is at least 270 per cent, making China the most highly indebted emerging market economy.

Making wrong choices

China wasted a substantial chunk of its capital by shovelling investments into real estate, coal mines, infrastructure, steel mills, automobile plants and other capital-intensive industries.

Massive investment has created overcapacity in most manufacturing sectors at a time when domestic and external demands are both falling.

Real estate bubble has resulted into many ghost cities.

Current Scenario

Chinese firms are engaged in price wars, underselling each other and creating a vicious cycle in which over-indebted zombie firms destroy the profitability of healthier companies

Its cyclical downturn has been worsened by its longstanding structural imbalances.

Falling investment is causing the whole economy to stall

The inevitable demise will lead to higher unemployment and a considerable rise in non-performing loans.

Way ahead

Since Chinese banks cannot absorb  a hit on their capital, the Chinese state will have step in to recapitalise the banking sector, either by issuing bonds or printing money.

The former will reduce the credit worthiness of the Chinese state and the latter will further pressure the Chinese currency to depreciate.

Implications on Global economy

China’s looming recession or stagnation is clearly bad news for the global economy.

Developing countries will be more affected more than developed ones.

Since it is unlikely that Chinese demand for commodities will return to the same high level any time soon, it is almost certain that growth in emerging market economies will languish along with China’s.

For developed economies, the real danger coming out of China is deflation.

If Chinese firms start dumping their excess output on the global market the way their beleaguered steel mills have been doing since last year, deflation could wreck the already-fragile world economy.

[6] Scorched Earth

Indian Express

Issue

The Marathwada region has experienced three monsoon failures — in 2012, 2014 and 2015 due to which farmers choose to die. There are three suicide per day in just this single region comprising 8 district of Maharashtra.

Reasons

  • natural factors
  • Low water levels
  • consumer food price inflation

What strategy is needed?

Groundwater recharge and improved water-use efficiency, through construction of check dams, digging of farm ponds and investment in drip/ sprinkler irrigation

 

It  must be combined with reducing the massive gap between the irrigation potential created by major/ medium projects and the actual utilisation, by ensuring periodic desilting and rationalising water charges to recover operational and maintenance costs.

Immediate step

taking up MGNREGA to work properly and extensively

[7] Not the unkindest

Indian Express

Context

Bringing down interest rates on small savings schemes would get the economy running.

RBI likely to slash interest rates because of following factors

Consumer price inflation is low despite two consecutive droughts.

Negative industrial production growth for a third straight month.

Budget staying the course on fiscal consolidation.

US Federal Reserve clarifying last week that it is in no hurry to raise interest rates.

Government’s recent move to bring down interest rates on small savings schemes.

Will the banks pass on the benefit on account of a likely rate cut?

On the previous occasion , when RBI slashed repo rate, banks did not passed on the benefit to its borrowers.

They argued that they cannot reduce lending rates without lowering deposit rates — which is not possible if post office schemes give higher returns.

But that excuse no longer holds: Even the RBI cannot say now that there is no point in cutting repo rates when “transmission” is weak.

Conclusion

Critics are saying that it is an attack on middle-class and low-income savers.

But the truth is that the poor and middle class stand to gain much more from the boost to overall economic activity following from lower interest rates.


Prelims Facts


[1] The era of plastic degrading bacteria has begun

The Hindu

Polymers: are substances whose molecules have high molar masses and are composed of a large number of repeating units. They are both naturally occurring and synthetic.

Example of naturally occurring polymers are proteins, starch, cellulose and latex.

From the invention till date around 100 yrs of polymer and plastics were a boon for their different uses and bane because it degraded environment.

Most common polymer and plastic

PET (polyethylene terephthalate also known as Terylene or Dacron)

Big concern

311 million tonnes of plastics are produced every year (50 million tons of PET alone)

many of them, such as PET, are not degraded, digested or broken down.

5 trillion pieces of plastic have reached and are found in ocean beds across the globe

Consequences

Environment degradation

Affecting the health of ocean life

Best agent to degrade this monster polymer

Dr Kanji Miyamoto of Keio University, Kanagawa in Japan

Founded a bacteria from PET bottle recycling sites

Called it Ideonella sakaiensis (first name identifies the family and the second name geographic location where they found the bacterium)

How I. sakaiensis functions?

It sticks to the pet bottle and secretes PET-ase which breaks down PET into a smaller building block abbreviated as MHET.

MHET broken down by another enzyme in the microbe’s cell (called MHET hydrolase) and hydrolysed to produce ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid – the two small molecules (called monomers)

Future Questions

Can we now isolate the ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid, the two monomers, and reuse them to make PET?

Can we make clones on the genes using genetic engineering methods to biodegrade PET?

Will they be safe for the oceans and their life forms?

[2]  Nine monsters star detected by Hubble

The Hindu

Hubble space telescope have identified nine massive “monster” stars which is more than 100 times the mass of the sun

Location

Tarantula Nebula

How far from earth

1,70,000 light years away

R136 is a star cluster Which contains these 9 massive stars.

In Tarantula Nebula

Energy of these stars are radiated in UV rays

[3] Abel prize for “stunning proof”

The Hindu

Andrew Wiles, British mathematician, has won the 2016 Abel prize

For his “stunning proof of Fermat’s last theorem by way of the modularity conjecture for semistable elliptic curves, opening a new era of mathematics,”

Pierre de Fermat first formulated the theorem in the 17th century

Abel prize

is an international award given for outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics, including mathematical aspects of computer science, mathematical physics, probability, numerical analysis, scientific computing, statistics and also mathematical applications in the sciences.

His work has made it easier to study elliptic curves and modular forms. It is a step ahead towards the Langlands programme

[4] Now solar energy can power air conditioner, refrigerator

The Hindu

Chennai-based company provides a comprehensive system that ensures that a 2 kW solar panel can power a 1.5 tonne air conditioner, one 300 litre refrigerator, five fans, five LED tube lights (4 feet in length and 16 watts each) and eight LED bulbs (6 watts each) during the day.

Basil Energetics Pvt Ltd uses thin film solar panels

Currently silicon crystalline panels is used

Efficiency of thin film panel is the same as silicon panel at 25 degree C

Difference between thin film solar panels and silicon crystalline panels

  1. Energy yield of thin film is higher than silicon panel.
  2. For every 1 degree C increase in temperature, the loss in power rating is 0.5 per cent in the case of silicon panels; it is only 0.25 per cent with thin films.
  3. Solar panels need light not heat. That’s why they are more efficient in higher latitudes
  4. Power production gets completely cut off even if a small part of the panel is covered by shade in Silicon panel,

And in thin film only that part of the thin film panel that is not exposed to sunlight stops producing power.

iGrid  is the brain of the system which manages the system automatically. It take decision by itself on how to use the energy and to save.

[5] New Shark and ray species found

The Hindu

13 new species of sharks and rays found in  Indian waters

Researchers are bar coding them

DNA bar coding was successfully used for accurate identification of chondrichthyans which included the chimaeras, sharks, rays, and skates in the Indian waters

Government had imposed a ban on the export of shark fins.

Five species of sharks and two manta ray species found in Indian waters have been included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora for monitoring its international trade.


BY: ForumIAS Editorial Team 

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  • THANKS 4 PRELIMS FACT ALSO

  • Lebowski

    Thank you forumIAS!

  • Tyrion Lannister

    Prelims Facts are welcomed again 🙂

  • HappyIAS

    thanks for providing the Prelims facts again!

  • sanima_nhi_dekhte_ka

    Good to see Prelims Facts back again