Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - October 1, 2018

Supreme Court Verdicts

Crusade for women’s rights Connect to some major verdicts given by the Supreme Court in recent times

  • The past two years have seen the Supreme Court progressively question patriarchy in religion to ensure emancipation for women, and set the course for the future.

Connect to the statements given by S.C

  • Historically, women have been treated unequally. No philosophy has so far convinced the large population of this country to open up and accept women as equal partners in the journey of spirituality, the Chief Justice wrote in the Sabarimala case.
  • In Sabarimala, the court held that the ban on women, based on their menstrual status, considering them as “polluted” and a distraction for worshippers vowed to celibacy, is a “form of untouchability”.
  • In no uncertain terms, the court told the world that India still practices untouchability 63 years after the social evil was abolished under the Untouchability (Offences) Act in 1955.

The verdicts on Sabarimala temple and Haji Ali Dargah

  • The fact that the court, despite the changes in Chief Justices, has remained steadfast in its objective to realise the equal status of women in religion was witnessed in October 2016 when a Bench led by then Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur drew a parallel between the restriction on women worshipping in Sabarimala temple and Mumbai’s famed Haji Ali Dargah.
  • Chief Justice Thakur had observed that ‘exclusion’ is practised by both Hindus and Muslims and the “problem needs to be addressed'”.

Triple Talaq

  • The Khehar Court on August 22 last year declared the triple talaq unconstitutional and anti-Quran.
  • Justice Kurian Joseph, on the Constitution Bench, held that “Islam cannot be anti-Quran... Triple talaq is against the basic tenets of the Holy Quran, and consequently, it violates Shariat”.

Parsi’s silent pray and female genital mutilation

  • Over the past year, the Court has intervened with the Parsi elders to allow Goolrokh Gupta, a Parsi woman, who married outside her faith, to pray at the Tower of Silence for her departed father.
  • It has also referred to a Constitution Bench the question whether the practice of female circumcision or khafz, prevalent in the Dawoodi Bohra sect, amounts to “female genital mutilation” and is a violation of women’s right to life and dignity.

Bilateral Relations

S-400, Kamov on the agenda Rs39,000-crore deal for Triumf air defence systems ready for signing Russian President’s visit to India

What

  • Ahead of the bilateral summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin later this week, discussions are “still under way” between the two sides to conclude a final deal for 200 Kamov-226T utility helicopters.

Kamov-226T utility helicopters

  • India and Russia have already concluded an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for 200 helicopters estimated to cost over $1 billion. Under the deal, 60 helicopters will be imported from Russia and at least another 140 will be built in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with technology transfer.
  • As part of this, a joint venture was set up in India which will build the helicopters.

S-400 systems

  • The big focus during Mr. Putin’s visit on October 4-5 is the proposed ₹39,000-crore deal for five S-400 air defence systems as the prospect of U.S. sanctions looms large with U.S. officials warning against it.
  • Officials said the process to conclude a deal is almost complete but remain tight-lipped if the deal would be signed during the summit.
  • Several officials have stated on various occasions that India would go ahead with the deal and it was for the U.S. to find a way around the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to avoid sanctions.
  • In October 2016, the two countries concluded IGA for five S-400 systems and four stealth frigates after which the negotiations began to conclude a commercial contract.

Threat of sanctions

  • With the friction in relations between the U.S. and Russia, the S-400 has become a major point of friction.
  • Several countries, including some U.S. allies, have expressed interest or are acquiring the system and Washington has threatened them with sanctions. Early this month, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on some entities and individuals in China as it recently acquired Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 systems.
  • In December last year, Turkey signed a deal to acquire these systems; in October last year Saudi Arabia signed a memo of intent to acquire the S-400 and talks are on to finalise the deal.
  • Interestingly, Saudi Arabia has threatened Qatar with military action if it moves to acquire the same system. According to the portal military today, the S-400 has been exported to Algeria as well.

Connect to S-400

  • The state-of-the-art S-400 Triumf (NATO name SA-21 Growler) is considered one of the most advanced long-range defence systems in the world.
  • It has a range of 400 km and can hit targets at a height of up to 30 km.
  • Its powerful radars can track hundreds of targets simultaneously and destroy a range of targets.
  • Each system includes a command post, a 3D phased array acquisition radar, optional tracking radar and firing units.
  • There are various kinds of missiles to choose from based on the mission requirements.

International

In a first, South African lion cubs conceived artificially at the University of Pretoria

What

  • These are the first ever lion cubs to be born by means of artificial insemination — the first such pair anywhere in the world

Connect to the cubs

  • This was announced the University of Pretoria, whose scientists are researching the reproductive system of female African lions.
  • The two cubs, a male and female, born on August 25 are healthy and normal
  • This breakthrough could be repeated, with scientists hoping the technique can be used to save other endangered big cats.
  • Lions are extinct in 26 African countries and numbers in the wild have plummeted 43% over the last two decades, with roughly only 20,000 left, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which lists the African lion as vulnerable.

Corporate Affairs

Government constitutes Competition Law Review Committee to review the Competition Act

What

  • In pursuance of its objective of ensuring that Legislation is in sync with the needs of strong economic fundamentals, the Government has constituted a Competition Law Review Committee to review the Competition Act.

Connect to Competition act 2002

  • The Competition Act was passed in the year 2002 and the Competition Commission of India was set up in pursuance of the same.
  • The Commission started functioning in right earnest from 2009 and has contributed immensely towards the development of competition and fair play practices in the Indian market.
  • During the past nine years the size of the Indian Economy has grown immensely and India is today amongst the top five Economies in the World and poised to forge ahead further.
  • In this context, it is essential that Competition Law is strengthened, and re-calibrated to promote best practices which result in the citizens of this country achieving their aspirations and value for money.

Connect to the work assigned to the committee

  • To review the Competition Act/ Rules/ Regulations, in view of changing business environment and bring necessary changes, if required;
  • To look into international best practices in the competition fields, especially anti-trust laws, merger guidelines and handling cross border competition issues;
  • To study other regulatory regimes/ institutional mechanisms/ government policies which overlap with the Competition Act;
  • Any other matters related to competition issue and considered necessary by the Committee.
  • The Committee shall complete its work and submit its report within three months of the date of its first meeting.

Drinking Water & Sanitation

Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention

What

  • The Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention is a four-day convention organized by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, and includes more than 160 international representatives from 68 countries.
  • It was inaugurated by the Hon’ble President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, in New Delhi.

Connect to Punsari village (Gujrat)

  • 116 foreign delegates including sanitation ministers visited select sites related to the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi on the “Gandhi Trail”.
  • The delegation first visited Punsari village, an example of the success of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).
  • For the 5,100 residents, each home has a functional toilet with a water facility. Since it was declared open defecation free, not a single child has dropped out of school.

MGISC

  • The MGISC culminates on 2nd October with the launch of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth year celebrations, also marking the beginning of the final year of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) or Clean India Mission.
  • The 2nd October session will be presided over by the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi.

Connect to some of the statics of SBM

  • India is close to becoming open defecation free.
  • The rural sanitation coverage of India has increased significantly, from 39% in October 2014 to 94.44% as of 30 September 2018.
  • Nearly 86.5 million household toilets have been constructed under the Mission. 25 States/Union Territories, 509 districts, and 500,000 villages have declared themselves free from open defecation.
  • The number of people practicing open defecation in rural India has gone down from 550 million in 2014, to less than 150 million till date.

Culture

Heritage Digitisation Project

Implementing agencies

  • Union Railway Ministry in collaboration with Google Arts and Culture Association.
  • It can be accessed at “https://artsandculture.google.com/project/indian-railways”.

Connect to the project

  • It is first-of-its-kind project that aims to showcase India’s rail heritage to the national and international audience in an online story-telling platform.
  • It is also largest cultural heritage digitisation project in India and possibly in entire Asia Pacific Region.
  • Digitization of rail heritage will make India’s rich rail-heritage and legacy digitally accessible to people in India around the world.
  • Digital heritage provides universal access to large repository of knowledge and thus removes bottleneck of being physically there.
  • It will also bring alive lost stories and heroic efforts of people like track-man, station master and workshop engineers to celebrate their contribution.

Human Resource Development

Conference on Academic Leadership on Education for Resurgence

What

  • The Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Conference on Academic Leadership on Education for Resurgence in Vigyan Bhawan in which the Vice-Chancellors/Directors from more than 350 universities participated.
  • The conference was organized jointly by UGC, AICTE, ICSSR, IGNCA, IGNOU, JNU and SGT University.

Connect to the conference

  • The theme of the Conference is to deliberate on the challenges facing the Indian education system and to work out a plan for a paradigm shift both in terms of achieving academic outcomes and also in regulation of education.
  • This Conference is in continuation of the efforts being made by the Ministry for evolving an action plan for transformation of the higher education sector.
  • The first among this was held in Delhi during Vice-Chancellors’ Conference from 26-28 July, 2018.

The Conference inaugurated by the Prime Minister, will have several sessions covering eight thematic areas namely:

  • Improving pedagogy for learner centric education – use of artificial intelligence for customized learning
  • From job seeking to job creating – improving innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Improving quality of research – focus on requirements of India
  • Bringing synergy among educational institutions – pooling of academic resources like sharing of libraries and exchange of knowledge
  • Building inclusive and integrated campuses – taking up activities which could bring emotional attachments of students to the campus
  • Participatory Governance models – facilitating participation of students in governance processes
  • Building robust financial models – supplementing Government resources by getting funds from alumni and also from corporate (CSR)
  • Promoting value education by building in universal values and life skills into education.

Administrative Reforms

Centre appoints search committee for Lokpal It will be headed by former SC judge Ranjana Prakash Desai

What

  • After a long delay, the Centre constituted an eight-member search committee, to be headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, to recommend the chairperson and members of the anti-corruption ombudsman Lokpal.

Connect to the Lokpal act

  • The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, which envisages establishment of anti-graft body Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in States to look into cases of corruption against certain categories of public servants, was passed in 2013.
  • Former State Bank of India chief Arundhati Bhattacharya, Prasar Bharati chairperson A. Surya Prakash and former Indian Space Research Organisation head A.S. Kiran Kumar are the members of the search committee, according to an order by the Personnel Ministry.
  • The step comes after the Supreme Court’s order to appoint Lokpal at the earliest.
  • The search committee was appointed by the selection committee, which comprises Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, leader of the largest Opposition party, which in this case was Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge, and eminent jurist Mukul Rohatgi.
  • Mr. Kharge, however, is not a full-fledged member of the panel and he boycotted the selection committee meeting five times this year.

Sources – PIB , The Hindu , Indianexpress