Daily Current Affairs : 12th September 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. 5-point plan to de-escalate LAC stand-off
  2. Jammu and Kashmir Integrated Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (JK-IGRAMS),
  3. Exchange Traded Fund
  4. FCRA Exemption for PM CARES
  5. Net Present Value
  6. Virtual Courts
  7. Second edition of Ranking of States on Support to Startup Ecosystems
  8. Facts for Prelims

1 . 5-point plan to de-escalate LAC stand-off


Context : External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi  agreed on a five-point course of action to disengage and reduce tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), where Indian and Chinese troops have been engaged in a four and a half month long stand-off.

Background

  • The meeting between the foreign ministers was facilitated and encouraged by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who hosted them at the SCO meeting.

Details of the Five Point Course of Action

“The two Foreign Ministers agreed that the current situation in the border areas is not in the interests of either side and proposed a five point course of Action. They are as follows

  • Not allow differences to become disputes”,
  • Disengaging quickly to ease tensions,
  • Abiding by the existing India-China border protocols and avoiding escalatory action,
  • Continuing the dialogue between Special Representatives National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Mr. Wang as well as the other mechanisms and
  • Working towards new confidence-building measures (CBMs).

How significant were the India-China talks?

  • This meeting between the two foreign ministers was an attempt to break the state of impasse as series of talks have taken place at multiple levels without yielding any results. It was also good optics especially for China as the Communist leadership was keen to showcase its sincerity to resolve the issues through dialogue.
  • It is in keeping with the Chinese policy of ‘talking and fighting simultaneously’ (yi bian dan-yi bian da). Besides, it also lent credence to the role of Moscow in setting up the stage for the talks. Some experts have termed these talks as stepping back from the brink of war which it is not. The current situation is well below the threshold of conflict if we talk of the escalatory ladder.

What is the significance of the India-China five-point Action Plan?

  • It reiterates the process of dialogue, disengagement, and easing of the situation. All this was comprehensively dealt with in the previous five agreements given below:
    • The 1993 ‘Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility Agreement’ forms the basis of all followup agreements.
    • 1996 ‘Confidence Building Measures’ denounced the use of force
    • 2005 ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ and patrolling modalities.
    • 2012 ‘Process of Consultation and Cooperation’
    • 2013 ‘Border Cooperation Agreement’, signed as a sequel to Depsang intrusion by PLA
  • There is no requirement of additional agreements. The moot point is their implementation as these have been violated by the PLA in pursuit of its “Nibble and Negotiate” strategy. In fact, all these agreements have only helped China to consolidate its claims over a period of time by waging a ‘bullet-less’ war.
  • The mechanism of strategic guidance evolved at Wuhan and later reconfirmed at Mamallapuram between PM Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping has not delivered despite the fact that Xi is the commander-in-chief of PLA.

What should be India’s future strategy?

  • China has not been able to achieve its aims either politically or militarily due to India’s firm and resolute response. This will definitely reflect upon Xi Jinping’s iron man image. It is worth noting that Xi would like to add to his achievements that can be flaunted during the centenary celebrations of the Communist Party of China (COC) in 2021, and the 20th party congress, a crucial five-yearly Communist party event due in 2022.
  • The force level deployed by China in Aksai Chin with two strike divisions (4 Motorised Division in the Chushul sector and 6 Mechanized Division in Depsang) and 150 frontline fighter aircraft positioned on the forward bases belies Chinese intent to de-escalate. Therefore, India must continue its proactive posture not only in Ladakh but across the complete length of LAC. After all, it’s the position on the ground which will decide the trajectory of talks on the negotiations table. Above all, we must insist on April 2020 status quo and make it clear to the Chinese that the border issue cannot be delinked from bilateral relations.

2 .  Jammu and Kashmir Integrated Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (JK-IGRAMS)


Context : Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) Manoj Sinha launched the Jammu and Kashmir Integrated Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (JK-IGRAMS), in a bid to create an interface with the public and focus on governance issues in the Union Territory.

About the Portal

  • JK-IGRAMS JK-IGRAMS is a grievance redressal mechanism which is an important aspect of any good governance system
  • Portal has been developed to enable citizens to register their grievances and seek redress/ answers from the concerned departments.
  • It provides a single window for lodging; channelising and tracking the grievances by integrating it with Govt. of India’s CPGRAMS on top and District Grievance Cells of all 20 districts at bottom.
  • Further, toll-free Call Centers have been set up for providing an alternate medium to the citizens to register their grievance at district level.
  • The system is being launched on a pilot basis in three districts — Jammu, Srinagar, and Reasi — and will gradually be rolled out in the remaining districts by October 2.

Features of the Portal

  • Easy to use:
    • Allows registration of grievance 24 x 7.
    • Portal is integrated vertically above with GoI (CPGRAMS) and below with the districts and its subordinate Officers
    • Provision to submit the grievance in English.
  • Other Modes of Registration:
    • Any Postal/ Registered Complaint addressed to the Grievance Cell also gets fed into the System.
    • Grievances pertaining to the districts can also be registered by calling on the Toll free District Call Centers
  • Transparency/Accountability:
    • Grievances cannot be deleted/tampered by anyone including the admin.
    • Fortnightly reports of all Departments/Officers are submitted to the Lieutenant Governor.
    • Unique Grievance Number available for tracking.
    • Facility to submit clarification related to the grievance.

3 . Exchange Traded Funds


Context Gold ETFs witnessed an inflow in August, for the fifth month in a row, amid major economies staring at a recession due to the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. Net inflow in gold exchange traded funds, i.e. the ETF category, reached ₹5,356 crore in the January-August period, data with the Association of Mutual Funds in India showed.

About Exchange Traded Funds

  • Exchange Traded Funds are essentially Index Funds that are listed and traded on exchanges like stocks
  • Usually, ETFs are passive funds where the fund manager doesn’t select stocks on your behalf. Instead, the ETF simply copies an index and endeavours to accurately reflect its performance.
  • An ETF is a basket of stocks that reflects the composition of an Index. The ETFs trading value is based on the net asset value of the underlying stocks that it represents. Underlying assets can be shares of stock, bonds, oil futures, gold bullion, foreign currency, etc.
  • ETFs are different from mutual funds in terms of tradability, liquidity and marketability.
  • In an ETF, one can buy and sell units at prevailing market price on a real time basis during market hours.

4 . FCRA Exemption for PM CARES


Context : The PM CARES Fund has received exemption from all provisions of the law meant to regulate foreign donations, although it does not seem to meet the pre-condition 

About FCRA

  • The FCRA is meant to regulate the acceptance and use of foreign contributions and to prevent their use for activities detrimental to national interest.
  • This includes gifts and monetary contributions from foreign sources, whether in Indian or foreign currency.
  • Organisations which wish to receive foreign donations must have a definite cultural, economic, educational, religious or social programme, and must register under the Act, and receive a clearance from the government.

Exemptions

  • Section 50 of the Act allows the Central government to issue orders exempting any organisation (apart from political parties) from the provisions of FCRA if it feels it necessary or expedient in public interest, subject to conditions specified in the order.
  • In July 2011, the Home Ministry issued an order exempting all bodies established by a Central or State Act which are required to have their accounts audited by the CAG.
  • In January 30, 2020, it issued a fresh order superseding the previous one, “to exempt organisations (not being a political party), constituted or established by or under a Central Act or a State Act or by any administrative or executive order of the Central Government or any State Government and wholly owned by the respective Government and required to have their accounts compulsorily audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) or any of the agencies of the CAG”.

Issues with providing exemption to PM CARES

  • The PM CARES Fund is a public charitable trust registered under the Registration Act, 1908.
  • It was not set up through a Central or State Act.
  • It has argued that it is not a public authority under RTI; all bodies established by the government are public authorities under that Act.
  • The Fund is audited by an independent auditor, not by the CAG.

5 . Net Present Value


Context : The Union Ministry of Mines has requested an expert advisory committee of the Environment Ministry to exempt it from the Supreme Court-mandated fees that prospectors pay when they dig exploratory boreholes in forests, records of a meeting show.

About the Issue

  • Officials from the Ministry of Mines requested that ‘prospecting and exploring’ in forests be exempted from ‘the purview of the Forest Conservation Act.’
  • They argued that all areas of exploration are not converted into mining. Only about 1% cases are converted to mining.
  • Considering these, payment of Net Present Value is regarded as an avoidable expenditure. It was submitted that even payment of NPV at a rate of 2% or 5% is one of the major challenges which leads to delay in the exploration/ prospecting activities.”

About Net Present Value

  • The Net Present Value (NPV) is a monetary approximation of the value that is lost when a piece of forest land has been razed.
  • This is on the basis of the services and ecological value and there are prescribed formulae for calculating this amount which depends on the location and nature of the forest and the type of industrial enterprise that will replace a particular parcel of forest.
  • The Supreme Court mandates this must be paid by those who use forest land for non-forestry purposes and only limited exemptions are permitted.
  • The NPV came into being after a committee led by Professor Kanchan Gupta, of the Institute of Economic Growth, developed it based on a mandate from the Supreme Court.

Suggestion from Forest Advisory Committee

  • According to the Forest Advisory Committee, the Environment Ministry constituted expert committee that decides on whether forests can be diverted for projects recommended that the Environment Ministry “may consider charging NPV on borehole basis instead of the present practice of charging 2 or 5% NPV of the total forest area in the lease area. For prospecting on a site, large boreholes are dug to determine the existence, location and quantity of metal

6 . Virtual Courts


Context : Parliamentary Panel on Law and Justice has recommended continuation of virtual courts even in a post-COVID scenario but also sounded a word of caution that infrastructure needs to be upgraded especially in district courts to implement this.

Background

  • During the pre-COVID period, the video-conference (VC) set up was primarily used for conducting remand matters to prevent movement of prisoners between courts and jails.
  • Such VC facilities have been operationalised between 3,240 court complexes and corresponding 1,272 prisons.

About the Report

  • Report titled Functioning of the Virtual Courts/ Courts Proceedings through Video-Conferencing is the first report to be presented by any parliamentary panel on the impact of the pandemic.

Recommendations provided in the report

  • The report recommended for continuation of virtual court even in post covid scenario
  • Panel has argued that transfer of certain categories of cases, like cases pertaining to traffic challans or other petty offences, from regular court establishments to virtual courts will reduce the pendency of cases. It has suggested that a full fledged virtual court should be piloted in the first instance. Currently there are 30 million pending cases.
  • The committee further recommended on adopting latest technology in courtroom
  • The Committee also recommended the Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to address data privacy and data security concerns while developing a new platform for India’s judicial system

Challenges & Concerns

  • Stakeholder who met the committee have noted that the present infrastructure does not support virtual court proceedings. The committee was informed that 3,477 court rooms are supported with facilities for virtual proceedings while 14,443 are still to be provided with them.
  • As far as e-Courts and Virtual Courts are concerned, in India, almost 50% lawyers, particularly in district courts, do not have any laptop or computer facility.
  • Many witnesses said the virtual court hearings, especially during peak hours when many people log into the video-conferencing system, was subject to frequent crashes of the system and entire proceedings can be vitiated by one glitch.
  • There were also concerns that virtual courts will compromise privacy of data as well as confidentiality of discussions and court proceedings. For instance, courts in the United States had to deal with Zoom bombing — an unwanted intrusion by hackers and internet trolls into a video conference call — while conducting court proceedings through Zoom, which is a third party software application. Currently, third-party software applications such as Vidyo, Cisco and Jitsi are being used in India for conducting hearings through video-conferencing. Third-party software is not only an unviable option but also poses a major security risk as such software programs and applications are prone to hacking and manipulation.

7 . Second edition of Ranking of States on Support to Startup Ecosystems


Context : The Results of the second edition of Ranking of States on Support to Startup Ecosystems were released by Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways Shri Piyush Goyal 

About the Ranking Exercise

  • The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) conducted the second edition of the States’ Startup Ranking Exercise, with the key objective to foster competitiveness and propel States and Union Territories to work proactively towards uplifting the startup ecosystem. 
  • It has been implemented as a capacity development exercise to encourage mutual learning among all states and to provide support in policy formulation and implementation.
  • The States’ Startup Ranking Framework 2019 has 7 broad reform area, consisting of 30 action points ranging from Institutional Support, Easing Compliances, Relaxation in Public Procurement norms, Incubation support, Seed Funding Support, Venture Funding Support, and Awareness & Outreach.
  • To establish uniformity and ensure standardization in the ranking process, States and UTs have been divided into two groups.While UTs except Delhi and all States in North East India except Assam are placed in Category ‘Y’. All other States and UT of Delhi are in Category ‘X’.
  • A total of 22 States and 3 Union Territories participated in the exercise.
  • For the purposes of Ranking, States are classified into 5 Categories: Best Performers, Top Performers, Leaders, Aspiring Leaders and Emerging Startup Ecosystems.

Importance of Startup Ecosystem

  • Societies that have developed across the globe, have developed ecosystems for encouraging entrepreneurships, and collaborative solution development. Strong ecosystem for startup is necessary for the country to reach the levels of $5tn economy by 2024.
  • Ranking will encourage our young entrepreneurs who have skills and ideas to start their businesses.
  • Startup ecosystem in the country has led to creation of over 4 lakh jobs.
  • Ranking is an example of cooperative federalism, which will help in capacity building in the states.

Rankings States

CategoryState
Best PerformerGujarat
Top PerformersKarnataka , Kerala
LeadersBihar, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan

Ranking Union Territories

CategoryState
Best PerformerAndaman and Nicobar Islands
LeaderChandigarh
Aspiring LeaderNagaland
Emerging Startup EcosystemsMizoram, Sikkim

8 . Facts for Prelims


Streets for People Challenge

  • The Streets for People Challenge is the response to the need for making our cities more walkable and pedestrian friendly.
  • The Challenge builds on the advisory issued by MoHUA for the holistic planning for pedestrian-friendly market spaces, earlier this year.
  • The Challenge will support cities across the country to develop a unified vision of streets for people in consultation with stakeholders and citizens. Adopting a participatory approach, cities will be guided to launch their own design competitions to gather innovative ideas from professionals for quick, innovative, and low-cost tactical solutions.
  • ​It aims to inspire cities to create walking-friendly and vibrant streets through quick, innovative, and low-cost measures.
  • All cities participating in the challenge shall be encouraged to use the ‘test-learn-scale’ approach to initiate both, flagship and neighbourhood walking interventions.
  • The interventions can include inter alia creating pedestrian-friendly streets in high footfall areas, re-imagining under-flyover spaces, re-vitalizing dead neighbourhood spaces, and creating walking links through parks and institutional areas.
  • Fit India Mission, under Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, along with the India program of the Institute for Transport Development and Policy (ITDP) have partnered with the Smart Cities Mission to support the challenge.

Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework (CSCAF) 2.0

  • The objective of CSCAF is to provide a clear roadmap for cities towards combating Climate Change while planning and implementing their actions, including investments.
  • CSCAF initiative intends to inculcate a climate-sensitive approach to urban planning and development in India.
  • ​This assessment framework was developed after review of existing frameworks and assessment approaches adopted throughout the world followed by series of extensive consultative process with more than 26 organizations and 60 experts from different thematic areas.
  • The framework has 28 indicators across five categories namely; (i) Energy and Green Buildings, (ii) Urban Planning, Green Cover & Biodiversity, (iii) Mobility and Air Quality, (iv) Water Management and (v) Waste Management. The Climate Centre for Cities under National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) is supporting MoHUA in implementation of CSCAF.
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