Daily Current Affairs : 15th July 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Pragyata Guidelines
  2. Draft Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020
  3. Spike Missiles
  4. Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA)
  5. Wholesale Price Index
  6. The Padmanabhaswamy temple case
  7. Facts for Prelims

1 . Pragyata Guidelines


Context: Union Human Resource Development Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’  released PRAGYATA Guidelines on Digital Education through online medium

About the guidelines

  • PRAGYATA Guidelines on Digital Education through online medium have been prepared by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT)
  • These guidelines are only advisory in nature, and State governments have been asked to build on them and formulate their own rules, based on local needs.

Key Features of the Pragyata guidelines

  • PRAGYATA guidelines have been developed from the perspective of learners, with a focus on online/blended/digital education for students who are presently at home due to lockdown.
  • These guidelines on Digital/ Online Education  provide a roadmap or pointers for carrying forward online education to enhance the quality of education.
  • The guidelines will be relevant and useful for a diverse set of stakeholders including school heads, teachers, parents, teacher educators and students.
  • The guidelines stress upon the use of alternative academic calendar of NCERT, for both, learners having access to digital devices and learners having limited or no access.
  • The PRAGYATA guidelines include eight steps of online/ digital learning that is, Plan- Review- Arrange- Guide- Yak(talk)- Assign- Track- Appreciate. These steps guide the planning and implementation of digital education step by step with examples.
  • It also outlines the support to be provided to students with special needs.
  • Main emphasis is on balanced online and offline activities keeping the screen time as an essential parameter in accordance with the level of students.

The guidelines outlines suggestions for administrators, school heads, teachers, parents and students on the following areas:

  • Need assessment
  • Concerns while planning online and digital education like duration, screen time, inclusiveness, balanced online and offline activities etc level wise
  • Modalities of intervention including resource curation, level wise delivery etc.
  • Physical, mental health and wellbeing during digital education
  • Cyber safety and ethical practices including precautions and measures for maintaining cyber safety
  • Collaboration and convergence with various initiatives

Recommended screen time

ClassRecommendation
Pre PrimaryOn a given day for interacting with parents and guiding them, not more than 30 minutes.
Classes 1 to 12Recommended to adopt/adapt the alternative academic calendar of NCERT
Classes 1 to 8Online synchronous learning may be undertaken for not more than two sessions of 30-45 minutes each on the days the States/UTs decide to have online classes for primary sections
Classes 9 to 12Online synchronous learning may be undertaken for not more than four sessions of 30-45 minutes each on the days as decided by States/UTs.

Importance of the Guidelines

  • Guidelines for school heads and teachers describe the need assessment, planning and steps to implement digital education while ensuring cyber safety and privacy measures. It also outlines the support to be provided to students with special needs. Main emphasis is on balanced online and offline activities keeping the screen time as an essential parameter in accordance with the level of students.
  • For parents, the guideline helps to understand the need for physical, mental health and wellbeing along with the cyber safety measures for children at home. Guidelines for physical health and mental wellness is stressed across the guidelines for all stakeholders measures so that children do not get overly stretched or stressed, or get affected negatively (postural defects, ophthalmic issues, and other physical problems) owing to prolonged use of digital devices. Also it provides sufficient Do’s and Don’ts regarding ergonomics and cyber safety.
  • The Guidelines also emphasize the need to unify all efforts related to digital/ online/on-air education, benefitting school going children across the country. The initiative includes DIKSHA, SWAYAM Prabha, SWAYAM MOOCS, Radio Vahini, Shiksha Vaani, Special content for children with special needs and ITPAL. In a country like India characterized by multifarious diversity, switching over to digital modes of education needs various States/ UTs level organization and National level organizations to join hands for a change that will sustain post-COVID-19 also.

2 . Draft Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020


Context: After facing flak from the transgender community, the Union government has done away with the requirement of a medical examination for trans persons applying for a certificate of identity in its latest draft rules framed under the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019.

Background

  • In 2014 India’s Supreme Court has recognised transgender people as a third gender, in a landmark ruling.
  • In National Legal Services Authority v Union of India and others, the Court found that the right to self-identify one’s gender, including as “third gender”, was an important part of the constitutional right to live with dignity. 
  • Further, the Court directed central and state governments to grant legal recognition to transgender persons, address issues of social stigma and discrimination, and provide social welfare schemes for them.
  • A private member Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha by Mr. Tiruchi Siva in 2014 to guarantee rights and provide welfare measures for transgender persons
  • In 2019 government passed The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019. Following the passing of the Act, the government circulated the Draft Rules to the Act which was criticized for mandating a report by Psychologist for issuing transgender identity certificate

Details of the New Draft Rules

  • The draft of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020, published in the gazette , stated that a District Magistrate would issue a transgender identity certificate and card based on an affidavit by the applicant, “but without any medical examination”.
  • An earlier draft of the rules, mandated a report from a psychologist along with the affidavit for the application. The trans rights movement had opposed this, as it was seen as going against a trans person’s right to self-identification.
  • Through an online application system was being prepared and trans persons would be required to fill out a form and submit an affidavit saying they perceive themselves to be “a transgender person whose gender does not match with the gender assigned at birth”.
  • In case of change of gender, the application for new identification certificate would require a certificate from the medical superintendent or chief medical officer of the medical institution where the applicant underwent the intervention.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019

  • Definition of a transgender person: The Bill defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth.  It includes trans-men and trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons with socio-cultural identities, such as kinnar and hijra.  Intersex variations is defined to mean a person who at birth shows variation in his or her primary sexual characteristics, external genitalia, chromosomes, or hormones from the normative standard of male or female body. 
  • Prohibition against discrimination: The Bill prohibits the discrimination against a transgender person, including denial of service or unfair treatment in relation to: (i) education; (ii) employment; (iii) healthcare; (iv) access to, or enjoyment of goods, facilities, opportunities available to the public; (v) right to movement; (vi) right to reside, rent, or otherwise occupy property; (vii) opportunity to hold public or private office; and (viii) access to a government or private establishment in whose care or custody a transgender person is. 
  • Right of residence: Every transgender person shall have a right to reside and be included in his household.  If the immediate family is unable to care for the transgender person, the person may be placed in a rehabilitation centre, on the orders of a competent court. 
  • Employment: No government or private entity can discriminate against a transgender person in employment matters, including recruitment, and promotion.  Every establishment is required to designate a person to be a complaint officer to deal with complaints in relation to the Act. 
  • Education: Educational institutions funded or recognised by the relevant government shall provide inclusive education, sports and recreational facilities for transgender persons, without discrimination. 
  • Health care: The government must take steps to provide health facilities to transgender persons including separate HIV surveillance centres, and sex reassignment surgeries.  The government shall review medical curriculum to address health issues of transgender persons, and provide comprehensive medical insurance schemes for them. 
  • Certificate of identity for a transgender person: A transgender person may make an application to the District Magistrate for a certificate of identity, indicating the gender as ‘transgender’.  A revised certificate may be obtained only if the individual undergoes surgery to change their gender either as a male or a female. 
  • Welfare measures by the government: The Bill states that the relevant government will take measures to ensure the full inclusion and participation of transgender persons in society.  It must also take steps for their rescue and rehabilitation, vocational training and self-employment, create schemes that are transgender sensitive, and promote their participation in cultural activities.
  • Offences and penalties: The Bill recognizes the following offences against transgender persons: (i) forced or bonded labour (excluding compulsory government service for public purposes), (ii) denial of use of public places, (iii) removal from household, and village, (iv) physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse.  Penalties for these offences vary between six months and two years, and a fine. 
  • National Council for Transgender persons (NCT): The NCT will consist of: (i) Union Minister for Social Justice (Chairperson); (ii) Minister of State for Social Justice (Vice- Chairperson); (iii) Secretary of the Ministry of Social Justice; (iv) one representative from ministries including Health, Home Affairs, and Human Resources Development.  Other members include representatives of the NITI Aayog, and the National Human Rights Commission.  State governments will also be represented.  The Council will also consist of five members from the transgender community and five experts from non-governmental organisations. 
  • The Council will advise the central government as well as monitor the impact of policies, legislation and projects with respect to transgender persons. It will also redress the grievances of transgender persons.

3 . Spike missiles


Context : The Army is set to place a repeat order for Spike-LR (long range) Anti-Tank Guided Missiles from Israel as part of emergency procurement, a defence source said on Tuesday. The decision comes days after the Army’s decision to place a repeat order for 72,400 Sig Sauer assault rifles from the U.S.

About Spike missiles

  • Israel, manufactures the Spike family of anti-armour weapons
  • These are lightweight fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles and use electro-optical and fibre-optic technologies.
  • In fire-and-forget mode, the soldier activates the missile, locking the tracker on the target and pushes the fire button to launch. The missile automatically propels itself towards the target without any additional interaction and this fire-and-forget capability allows the soldier the option of relocating to a new firing position or to reload immediately for the next engagement. Reloading takes less than 15 seconds.

Sig Sauer assault rifles

  • The SIG516 is a semi-automatic multi-caliber rifle manufactured by Sig sauer
  • The new rifles will replace the existing Indian Small Arms System (Insas) 5.56x45mm rifles used by the forces and manufactured locally by the Ordnance Factories Board.

4 . Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA)


Context : India and the European Union (EU) are set to agree on a “High-level dialogue on Trade and Investment” to restart negotiations, seven years after talks on a free trade agreement were suspended.

Background

  • India was one of the primary countries with which the EU had launched talks for having a wide-ranging FTA, officially called broad-based Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), as long ago as 2007, after being agreed on at the 7th India-EU summit in Helsinki in 2006.
  • The BTIA was proposed to encompass trade in goods, services and investments. However, talks got suspended in May 2013 as the two sides could not agree on some critical issues such as slashing of tariffs on automobiles, wines and spirits, and free movement of professionals.

Point of contention in earlier BTIA talks

  • India has insisted on a smaller trade deal first, followed by a bigger trade agreement. But the EU is not open to the idea, and wants a “full-fledged trade agreement” with greater market access “having broader convergence” that will seek to slash tariffs on 90 per cent of goods being traded.
  • New Delhi and Brussels have also not been able to find common ground on the issue of investment. The EU remains firm on completing these talks even if talks for the larger trade pact continue. However, according to official sources, India has made it clear to the European Union that it will not negotiate the pact on investment “separately” from trade. This became a sore point between the two when in 2016 India cancelled all investment treaties with EU member countries as New Delhi came out with a new model Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) text in April 2016.
  • India is also opposed to negotiating sustainable development issues such as labour laws and climate changes issues under the FTA

Current Summit

  • India and the EU are expected to conclude several agreements including a roadmap for cooperation, an agreement on research sharing for civil nuclear cooperation and launch a maritime security dialogue as well as negotiations between Europol and the CBI.
  • Tackling COVID-19 and its impact on the economy and the global order will be high on the agenda. In particular, medical developments on vaccines and treatment will be discussed along with the withdrawal of the U.S. from multilateral organisations (like the World Health Organisation), and concerns over an ‘assertive’ China.
  • The trade and investment dialogue, to be conducted between Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan, is expected to give a boost to negotiations on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) as the EU-India FTA is known.

Challenges to BTIA

  • According to EU some of the programmes rolled out by India, such as ‘Make in India’ and ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ have given rise to protectionist tendencies.

5 . Wholesale Price Index


Context: Prices in the wholesale market fell for the third straight month, declining 1.81% in June, due to a sharp decline in fuel and power items even as food articles remained expensive. The annual rate of inflation, based on monthly Wholesale Price Index (WPI), stood at (-1.81%) (provisional) for June compared to 2.02% during the corresponding month of the previous year.

About Wholesale Price Index

  • Wholesale Price Index (WPI) measures the average change in the prices of commodities for bulk sale at the level of early stage of transactions.
  • The index basket of the WPI covers commodities falling under the three major groups namely Primary Articles, Fuel and Power and Manufactured products. (The index basket of the present 2011-12 series has a total of 697 items including 117 items for Primary Articles, 16 items for Fuel & Power and 564 items for Manufactured Products.)
  • The prices tracked are ex- factory price for manufactured products, mandi price for agricultural commodities and ex-mines prices for minerals.
  • Weights given to each commodity covered in the WPI basket is based on the value of production adjusted for net imports.
  • WPI basket does not cover services
  • In India WPI is also known as the headline inflation rate .
  • In India, Office of Economic Advisor (OEA), Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry calculates the WPI.

The main uses of WPI are the following:

  • To provide estimates of inflation at the wholesale transaction level for the economy as a whole. This helps in timely intervention by the Government to check inflation in particular, in essential commodities, before the price increase spill over to retail prices.
  • WPI is used as deflator for many sectors of the economy including for estimating GDP by Central Statistical Organisation (CSO).
  • WPI is also used for indexation by users in business contracts.
  • Global investors also track WPI as one of the key macro indicators for their investment decisions

6 . Padmanabhaswamy temple case


Context: The Supreme Court held that the erstwhile Travancore royal family is the “human ministrant” or the shebait (manager) of the properties belonging to Sree Padmanabha, chief deity of the famed and fabulously rich Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala.

About the Verdict

  • Reversing the 2011 Kerala High Court decision, the Supreme Court upheld the right of the Travancore royal family to manage the property of deity at Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram.
  • The central legal question was whether Utradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the younger brother of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the last Ruler of Travancore, could claim to be the “Ruler of Travancore” after the death of the ruler in 1991.
  • The court examined this claim within the limited meaning of that term according to the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950 to claim ownership, control and management of the ancient Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple.
  •  The court said that, as per customary law, the shebait rights (right to manage the financial affairs of the deity) survive with the members of the family even after the death of the last ruler.
  • The ruling ends the legal battle the temple and members of the royal family have fought with the government for decades over control of one of the richest temples in the world.

Background of the Case

  • All the temples which were under the control and management of the erstwhile Princely States of Travancore and Cochin were under the control of the Travancore and Cochin Devaswom Boards before 1947.
  • However, as per the Instrument of Accession signed between the princely states and the Government of India, since 1949, the administration of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple was “vested in trust” in the Ruler of Travancore.
  • The state of Kerala was carved out in 1956 but the temple continued to be managed by the erstwhile royals.
  • In 1971, privy purses to the former royals were abolished through a constitutional amendment stripping their entitlements and privileges.
  • The move was upheld in court in 1993 and the last ruler of Travancore who died during the pendency of this case continued to manage the affairs of the temple till then.
  • In 1991, when the last ruler’s brother took over the temple management, it created a furore among devotees who moved the courts leading to a long-drawn legal battle.
  • The government joined in; supporting the claims of the petitioner that Marthanda Varma had no legal right to claim the control or management of the temple.
  • The temple is not a property of the royal family. The character of the temple was always recognised as a public institution governed by a statute. The argument of the royal family is that the temple management would vest with them for perpetuity, as per custom.

Shebait

  • The manager of the Devasthan is known as Shebait in Northern India and as Dharmkarta in the South. Shebait is that person who serves the deity, consecrated in the temple as a Devata.
  • Shebaitship represents two parts—Maintenance of deity and management thereof. It is not only an office simply but is also accompanied by certain rights.
  • Shebait owes the duty like the manager of a religious endowment, as per the traditions towards the diety of maintaining and preserving the idol and property.
  • A Shebait as manager of the property has the ownership and possession of the property and he can file a suit for the protection and profits of the diety’s property. He can incur debts for the worship of the temple, for the repair of temple or for the protection of the belongings of the temple or for contesting the suit or saving the property from being sold for the execution of the decree. Debt can be incurred according to the needs.

Article 363 A

Recognition granted to Rulers of Indian States to cease and privy purses to be abolished.- Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution or in any law for the time being in force-

  • The Prince, Chief or other person who, at any time before the commencement of THE CONSTITUTION (Twenty-sixth Amendment) Act, 1971, was recognised by the President as the Ruler of an Indian State or any person who, at any time before such commencement, was recognised by the President as the successor of such Ruler shall, on and from such commencement, cease to be recognised as such Ruler or the successor of such Ruler;
  • On and from the commencement of the Constitution (Twenty-sixth Amendment) Act, 1971, privy purse is abolished and all rights, liabilities and obligations in respect of privy purse are extinguished and accordingly the Ruler or, as the case may be, the successor of such Ruler, referred to in clause (a) or any other person shall not be paid any sum as privy purse.”.

Article 366 (22) -Ruler

  • The definition of Ruler was amended by the Twenty Sixth (Constitutional) Amendment Act, 1971, which abolished the privy purses.
  • “Ruler” means the Prince, Chief or other person who, at any time before the commencement of THE CONSTITUTION (Twenty-sixth Amendment) Act, 1971, was recognised by the President as the Ruler of an Indian State or any person who, at any time before such commencement, was recognised by the President as the successor of such Ruler;’.

7 . Facts for Prelims


Hope Mission

  • Hope is UAE’s Mars Mission
  • Hope is launching on an H-2A rocket from Japan’s remote Tanegashima spaceport.
  • It will track features such as lofted dust which on Mars hugely influences the temperature of the atmosphere.
  • It will also look at what’s happening with the behaviour of neutral atoms of hydrogen and oxygen right at the top of the atmosphere. There’s a suspicion these atoms play a significant role in the ongoing erosion of Mars’ atmosphere by the energetic particles that stream away from the Sun.
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