1. China-Iran Strategic Cooperation (Prelims, GS II-International Relations)
Why in News?
Ø China and Iran have signed a 25-year "strategic cooperation pact” which includes "political economic and strategic components".
Ø The agreement comes amid a major push from China to back Iran to deal with the continuing weight of sanctions reinstated by the US after its withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.
More about Pact
Ø It will deepen relations between Iran and China and would establish a blueprint for "reciprocal investments in the fields of transport, ports, energy, industry and services."
Ø It forms a part of China's trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a plan to fund infrastructure projects and increase its influence overseas.
Ø China is also concluding a security and military partnership with Iran.
Ø China calls for “joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing” to fight “the lopsided battle with terrorism, drug and human trafficking and cross-border crimes”.
Ø The sizeable Chinese investments in Iranian ports development may eventually be turned into permanent military access arrangements with Iran.
Strategic Stakes Around the Chabahar Port
Ø With a growing Chinese presence in Iran, India is concerned about its strategic stakes around the Chabahar port project that it has been developing.
Ø The port is close to Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is being developed by China as part of its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that links it to the Indian Ocean through BRI.
Ø India finds itself caught in the geopolitical rivalry between the US & China over Iran.
Ø India’s dilemma also stems from the fact that robust support from the US is essential when it is locked in a border stand-off with China.
Impact on Relationship with Other Countries
Ø Growing Chinese footsteps in Iran will have a long-lasting impact on India’s relationship with not only Iran but also on Afghanistan and Central Asian nations.
2. Uniform Civil Code (Prelims, GS II-Polity & Governance)
Why in News?
Ø Recently, a petition has been filed in Supreme Court against Uniform Civil Code (UCC) on divorce and alimony.
Ø UCC is one that would provide for one law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc.
Ø Article 44 of the Constitution lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a UCC for the citizens throughout the territory of India.
Ø Article 44 is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP).
Ø DPSP as defined in Article 37, are not justiciable (not enforceable by any court) but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance.
Status of Uniform Codes in India
Ø Indian laws do follow a uniform code in most civil matters such as Indian Contract Act 1872, Civil Procedure Code, Transfer of Property Act 1882, Partnership Act 1932, Evidence Act, 1872 etc.
Ø States, however, have made hundreds of amendments and, therefore, in certain matters, there is diversity even under these secular civil laws.
Ø Recently, several states refused to be governed by the uniform Motor Vehicles Act, 2019.
Implications of Uniform Civil Code on Personal Laws
Protection to Vulnerable Section of Society
Ø The UCC aims to provide protection to vulnerable sections as envisaged by Ambedkar including women and religious minorities, while also promoting nationalistic fervour through unity.
Simplification of Laws
Ø The code will simplify the complex laws around marriage ceremonies, inheritance, succession, adoptions making them one for all. The same civil law will then be applicable to all citizens irrespective of their faith.
Adhering to Ideal of Secularism
Ø Secularism is the objective enshrined in the Preamble; a secular republic needs a common law for all citizens rather than differentiated rules based on religious practices.
Ø If a UCC is enacted, all personal laws will cease to exist. It will do away with gender biases in existing laws.
Exceptions in Central Family Laws
Ø The preliminary sections in all central family law Acts enacted by Parliament since Independence declare that they will apply to “the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Ø A Second exception was added in 1968 in all these Acts, pronouncing that “nothing herein contained shall apply to the Renoncants in the Union Territory of Pondicherry.”
Ø A third exception, none of these Acts applies in Goa, Daman and Diu.
Ø A fourth exception, relating to the north-eastern states of Nagaland and Mizoram, emanates from Articles 371A and 371G of the Constitution, decreeing that no parliamentary legislation will replace the customary law and religion-based system for its administration.
Ø The demand for a uniform civil code has been framed in the context of communal politics.
Ø A large section of society sees it as majoritarianism under the garb of social reform.
Ø Article 25 of Indian constitution, that seeks to preserve the freedom to practise and propagate any religion gets into conflict with the concepts of equality enshrined under Article 14 of Indian Constitution.
3. Inflation Targeting (Prelims, GS III-Banking & Economy)
Why in News?
Ø The Government of India has decided to retain the inflation target of 4%, with a tolerance band of +/- 2 percentage points for the Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for the coming five years.
Ø Earlier, the RBI in its Currency and Finance (RCF) report for the year 2020-21 also recommended the inflation target to be kept same as 4% +/-2% for next 5 years.
Ø It is a central banking policy that revolves around adjusting monetary policy to achieve a specified annual rate of inflation.
Ø Inflation targeting is known to bring more stability, predictability, and transparency in deciding monetary policy.
Strict Inflation Targeting
Ø It is adopted when the central bank is only concerned about keeping inflation as close to a given inflation target as possible, and nothing else.
Flexible Inflation Targeting
Ø It is adopted when the central bank is to some extent also concerned about other things, for instance, the stability of interest rates, exchange rates, output and employment.
Ø It is the macroeconomic policy laid down by the central bank.
Ø It involves management of money supply and interest rate and is the demand side economic policy used by the government of a country to achieve macroeconomic objectives like inflation, consumption, growth and liquidity.
Ø In India, monetary policy of the Reserve Bank of India is aimed at managing the quantity of money in order to meet the requirements of different sectors of the economy and to increase the pace of economic growth.
Ø The RBI implements the monetary policy through open market operations, bank rate policy, reserve system, credit control policy, moral persuasion and through many other instruments.
Monetary Policy Committee
Ø It is a statutory and institutionalised framework under the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, for maintaining price stability, while keeping in mind the objective of growth.
Ø The Governor of RBI is ex-officio Chairman of the committee.
Ø The MPC determines the policy interest rate (repo rate) required to achieve the inflation target (4%).
Ø An RBI-appointed committee led by the then deputy governor Urjit Patel in 2014 recommended the establishment of the Monetary Policy Committee.
4. ‘Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2021’ (Prelims, GS III-Economy)
Why in News?
Ø A report ‘Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2021: Towards post-Covid-19 resilient economies’ has recently been released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
Ø According to the report, India is estimated to record an economic growth of 7% in 2021-22, over a contraction of 7.7% witnessed in the previous fiscal on account of the pandemic’s impact on normal business activity.
Observation Regarding India
Ø India’s 2021 economic output, however, is expected to remain below the 2019 level despite a robust reduction in new Covid-19 cases and the start of vaccine roll-out.
Ø India entered the pandemic with already subdued GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth and investment.
Ø Moreover, one of the most stringent lockdowns in the world caused the severe economic disruptions that the country experienced in the year 2020.
Ø A subsequent change in lockdown policies and success in reducing infection rates supported an impressive economic turnaround in the later months of 2020.
Ø The report mentions two major challenges for India on its path to faster recovery-
o Maintaining low borrowing costs, and
o Keeping non-performing loans in check.
Observation Regarding Asia Pacific Countries
Ø The socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was amplified due to lack of resilience and investments in people and the planet.
Ø China’s swift and effective response to Covid-19 enabled it to become the only major economy worldwide to achieve a positive annual economic growth rate in 2020.
Ø On an average, developing Asia-Pacific economies are expected to grow 5.9% in 2021 and 5% in 2022.
Ø The prospect of a K-shaped recovery, characterised by uneven post-pandemic recovery across countries and widened inequality gaps within countries, is highlighted as a primary policy challenge.
Ø For a more robust and inclusive recovery, the report calls for a more synchronised Covid-19 vaccination programme across countries. There is a need to leverage regional cooperation.
Ø It recommends that fiscal and monetary support should be sustained, as premature tightening could increase long-term scars.
Ø Continuity in policy support is a must and recovery policy packages should focus on building resilience and investing in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Ø To deal with various economic and non-economic shocks, a more integrated risk management approach to planning and policymaking is needed.
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Ø The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) is the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region.
Ø It has 53 Member States and 9 Associate Members from Asia-Pacific Region including India.
Ø It was Established in1947
Ø It is Headquartered at Bangkok, Thailand
Ø To overcome some of the region’s greatest challenges by providing results-oriented projects, technical assistance and capacity building to member States.
5. Article 244 (A) (Prelims, GS II-Polity & Governance)
Why in News?
Ø The demand for an autonomous state within Assam has been raised by some of the sections of the society in Assam under the provisions of Article 244A of the Constitution.
Ø Article 244(A) allows for creation of an ‘autonomous state’ within Assam in certain tribal areas.
Ø It also envisages creation of a local legislature or Council of Ministers or both to carry out local administration.
Ø It was Inserted into the Constitution by the Twenty-second Constitution Amendment Act, 1969.
Ø Article 244(A) accounts for more autonomous powers to tribal areas than the Sixth Schedule. Among these the most important power is the control over law and order.
Ø In Autonomous Councils under the Sixth Schedule, they do not have jurisdiction of law and order.
Ø The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution provides for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram to safeguard the rights of the tribal population in these states.
Ø This special provision is provided underArticle 244 (2) and Article 275 (1) of the Constitution.
Ø In Assam, the hill districts of Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong and West Karbi and the Bodo Territorial Region are under this provision.
Ø The Governor is empowered to increase or decrease the areas or change the names of the autonomous districts.
Ø While executive powers of the Union extend in Scheduled areas with respect to their administration in fifth schedule, the sixth schedule areas remain within executive authority of the state.
Ø The acts of Parliament or the state legislature do not apply to autonomous districts and autonomous regions or apply with specified modifications and exceptions.
Ø The Councils have also been endowed with wide civil and criminal judicial powers, for example establishing village courts etc.
Ø However, the jurisdiction of these councils is subject to the jurisdiction of the concerned High Court.
6. Model Code of Conduct (Prelims, GS II-Election Laws & Governance)
Why in News?
Ø Recently, the Election Commission of India (ECI) delisted Ex-Telecom Minister A. Raja from the list of star campaigners.
Ø He has also been reprimanded for violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) for making certain remarks during election times.
Ø A star campaigner is a celebrity vote seeker in an election for a party. This person can be anyone, a politician or even a film star.
Ø There is no law governing who can or cannot be made a star campaigner.
Ø They are nominated by the concerned political parties specifying their constituencies and duration of the status.
Ø The ECI issues guidelines under the Model Code of Conduct regulating poll campaigns.
Numbers of Star Campaigners
Ø A ‘recognised’ National or State party declared as such by the ECI can nominate a maximum of 40-star campaigners.
Ø An unrecognised political party can nominate a maximum of 20-star campaigners.
Prime Minister as Star Campaigner
Ø The MCC guidelines say when a prime minister or a former prime minister is star campaigner, the expenditure incurred on security including on the bullet-proof vehicles will be borne by the government and will not be added to the election expenses of the party or the individual candidate.
Ø However, if another campaigner travels with the prime minister, the individual candidate will have to bear 50% of the expenditure incurred on the security arrangements.
Model Code of Conduct (MCC)
Ø The MCC is a set of guidelines issued by the ECI to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections.
Ø It helps ECI in keeping with the mandate it has been given under Article 324 of the Constitution, which gives it the power to supervise and conduct free and fair elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.
Ø The MCC is operational from the date on which the election schedule is announced until the date of result announcement.
Ø MCC is not statutory but Political Parties, Candidates and Polling Agents are expected to observe the norms, on matters ranging from the content of election manifestos, speeches and processions, to general conduct etc.
Ø Certain provisions of the MCC may be enforced through invoking corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the Indian Penal Code 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, and Representation of the People Act 1951.
7. Electoral Reforms (Prelims, GS II-Governance)
Why in News?
Ø According to the National Election Watch (NEW)and Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), in the Assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, at least 1,157 out of 6,318 candidates have criminal cases against them.
Ø NEW is a nationwide campaign since 2002 comprising more than 1200 Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other citizen led organizations working together on electoral reforms, improving democracy and governance in India.
Ø ADR is an Indian NGO established in 1999situated in New Delhi.
What is Criminalisation of Politics?
Ø It means the participation of criminals in politics which includes that criminals can contest in the elections and get elected as members of the Parliament and the State legislature.
Ø It takes place primarily due to the nexus between politicians and criminals.
Ø Indian Constitution does not specify as to what disqualifies a person from contesting elections for the Parliament, Legislative assembly or any other legislature.
Ø The Representation of Peoples Act 1951 mentions the criteria for disqualifying a person for contesting an election of the legislature.
Ø Section 8 of the act, i.e. disqualification on conviction for certain offences, according to which an individual punished with a jail term of more than two years cannot stand in an election for six years after the jail term has ended.
Ø The law does not bar individuals who have criminal cases pending against them from contesting elections therefore the disqualification of candidates with criminal cases depends on their conviction in these cases.
Reasons for Criminalisation
Lack of Political Will
Ø In spite of taking appropriate measures to amend the RPA Act, there has been an unsaid understanding among the political parties which deters Parliament to make strong law curbing criminalisation of politics.
Lack of Enforcement
Ø Several laws and court judgments have not helped much, due to the lack of enforcement of laws and judgments.
Ø Publishing of the entire criminal history of candidates fielded by political parties may not be very effective, as a major chunk of voters tend to vote through a narrow prism of community interests like caste or religion.
Use of Muscle and Money Power
Ø Candidates with serious records seem to do well despite their public image, largely due to their ability to finance their own elections and bring substantive resources to their respective parties.
Ø Also, sometimes voters are left with no options, as all competing candidates have criminal records.
Against the Principle of Free and Fair Election
Ø It limits the choice of voters to elect a suitable candidate.
Ø It is against the ethos of free and fair election which is the bedrock of a democracy.
Affecting Good Governance
Ø The major problem is that the law-breakers become law-makers, this affects the efficacy of the democratic process in delivering good governance.
Ø These unhealthy tendencies in the democratic system reflect a poor image of the nature of India’s state institutions and the quality of its elected representatives.
Affecting Integrity of Public Servants
Ø It also leads to increased circulation of black money during and after elections, which in turn increases corruption in society and affects the working of public servants.
Causes Social Disharmony
Ø It introduces a culture of violence in society and sets a bad precedent for the youth to follow and reduces people's faith in democracy as a system of governance.
8. CPCP & SPCB (Prelims, GS III-Pollution)
Why in News?
Ø Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT)directed the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) to strengthen its capacity and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to form a uniform recruitment criterion.
Provisions of the Order
Ø Inspection at higher frequencies.
Ø Capacity enhancement of SPCBs/Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) with consent funds.
Ø Capacity enhancement of CPCB utilising environment compensation funds.
Ø Annual performance audit of state PCBs/PCCs.
Ø CPCB to prepare a format containing qualifications, minimum eligibility criteria and required experience for key positions.
Ø In the name of ‘ease of doing business’, powers and authorities of SPCB have been compromised.
Ø The latest judgement of NGT is a fresh start to the long-delayed initiative of strengthening CPCB/SPCBs/PCCs.
Ø The judgment of NGT could be termed as landmark.
Ø The NGT has tried to erase the bottlenecks, which were being used to halt the strengthening of environmental regulation.
Ø The important part of the judgement is asking CPCB to come out with standard recruitment rules which can be followed by all states.
Ø The existing SPCBs recruitment rules have not been updated for decades.
Ø CPCB is a statutory organisation which was constituted in September, 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
Ø It was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
Ø It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change of the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
Ø They supplement the CPCB as they are a statutory organization entrusted to implement Environmental Laws and rules within the jurisdiction of a state.