Daily Current Affairs : 30th and 31st July 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. New Education Policy
  2. Pandemic Prices: COVID-19 price shocks and their implications for nutrition security in India
  3. Antibiotics in livestock
  4. Protesting as a Fundamental Right
  5. Perseverance 
  6. CHRI
  7. Merger under RPA
  8. Natesa Idol – Pratihara Architecture
  9. Facts for Prelims

1 . New Education Policy

Context : The new National Education Policy approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday will introduce four-year undergraduate degrees with multiple entry and exit options, abolish the M.Phil. degree, and establish a common higher education regulator with fee fixation for both private and public institutions. It also envisions universalisation of early childhood education from ages 3 to 6 by 2030, a new school curriculum with coding and vocational studies from Class 6, and a child’s mother tongue being used as the medium of instruction till Class 5.


  • The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi approved the National Education Policy 2020, making way for large scale, transformational reforms in both school and higher education sectors.
  • This is the first education policy of the 21st century and replaces the thirty-four year old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986. 
  • Built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability, this policy is  aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs and aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student.
  • NEP 2020 has been formulated after an unprecedented process of consultation that involved nearly over 2 lakh suggestions from 2.5 lakhs Gram Panchayats, 6600 Blocks, 6000 ULBs, 676 Districts. The MHRD initiated an unprecedented collaborative, inclusive, and highly participatory consultation process from January 2015.
  • In May 2016, ‘Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy’ under the Chairmanship of Late Shri T.S.R. Subramanian, Former Cabinet Secretary, submitted its report.   Based on this, the Ministry prepared ‘Some Inputs for the Draft National Education Policy, 2016’.  In June 2017 a ‘Committee for the Draft National Education Policy’  was constituted under the Chairmanship of eminent scientist Padma Vibhushan, Dr. K. Kasturirangan, which submitted the Draft National Education Policy, 2019 to the Hon’ble Human Resource Development Minister on 31st May, 2019. 

Important Highlights

School Education

  • Ensuring Universal Access at all levels of school education : NEP 2020 emphasizes on ensuring universal access to school education at all levels- pre school to secondaryInfrastructure support, innovative education centres to bring back dropouts into the mainstream, tracking of students and their learning levels, facilitating multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes, association of counselors or well-trained social workers with schools, open learning for classes3,5 and 8 through NIOS and State Open Schools, secondary education programs equivalent to Grades 10 and 12, vocational courses, adult literacy and life-enrichment programs are some of the proposed ways for achieving this. About 2 crore out of school children will be brought back into main stream under NEP 2020.
  • Early Childhood Care & Education with  new Curricular and Pedagogical Structure : With emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education, the 10+2 structure of school curricula is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively.  This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for development of mental faculties of a child. The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/ pre schooling.
  • NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8 . ECCE will be delivered through a significantly expanded and strengthened system of institutions including Anganwadis and pre-schools that will have teachers and Anganwadi workers trained in the ECCE pedagogy and curriculum. The planning and implementation of ECCE will be carried out jointly by the Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs.
  • Attaining Foundational Literacy and Numeracy : Recognizing Foundational Literacy and Numeracy as an urgent and necessary prerequisite to learning, NEP 2020 calls for setting up of a  National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by MHRD. States will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners by grade 3 by 2025.A National Book Promotion Policy is to be formulated.
  • Reforms in school curricula and pedagogy : The school curricula and pedagogy will aim for holistic development of learnersbyequipping them with the key 21st century skills, reduction in curricular content to enhance essential learning and critical thinking and greater focus on experiential learning. Students will have increased flexibility and choice of subjects. There will be no rigid separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams.
  • Vocational education will start in schools from the 6th grade, and will include internships.
  • A new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be developed by the NCERT.
  • Multilingualism and the power of language : The policy has emphasized mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond. Sanskrit to be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula. Other classical languages and literatures of India also to be available as options. No language will be imposed on any student. Students to participate in a fun project/activity on ‘The Languages of India’, sometime in Grades 6-8, such as, under the ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ initiative. Several foreign languages will also be offered at the secondary level. Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardized across the country, and National and State curriculum materials developed, for use by students with hearing impairment.
  • Assessment Reforms : NEP 2020 envisages a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment, which is more competency-based, promotes learning and development, and tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity. All students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued, but redesigned with holistic development as the aim.  A new National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development),  will be set up as a standard-setting body .
  • Equitable and Inclusive Education : NEP 2020 aims to ensure that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of the circumstances of birth or background. Special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups(SEDGs) which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities and disabilities.  This includes setting up of   Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups. Children with disabilities will be enabled to fully participate in the regular schooling process from the foundational stage to higher education, with support of educators with cross disability training, resource centres, accommodations, assistive devices, appropriate technology-based tools and other support mechanisms tailored to suit their needs. Every state/district will be encouraged to establish “Bal Bhavans” as a special daytime boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities. Free school infrastructure can be used as Samajik Chetna Kendras
  • Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path : Teachers will be recruited through robust, transparent processes. Promotions will be merit-based, with a mechanism for multi-source periodic performance appraisals and available progression paths to become educational administrators or teacher educators. A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expert organizations from across levels and regions.
  • School Governance : Schools can be organized into complexes or clusters which will be the basic unit of governance and ensure availability of all resources including infrastructure, academic libraries and a strong professional teacher community.
  • Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education : NEP 2020 envisages clear, separate systems for policy making, regulation, operations and academic matters. States/UTs will set up independent State School Standards Authority (SSSA). Transparent public self-disclosure of all the basic regulatory information, as laid down by the SSSA, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability. The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through consultations with all stakeholders.

Higher Education

  • Increase GER to 50 % by 2035 : NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035. 3.5 Crore new seats will be added to Higher education institutions.
  • Holistic Multidisciplinary Education : The policy envisages broad based, multi-disciplinary, holistic Under Graduate  education with flexible curriculacreative combinations of subjectsintegration of vocational education and  multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification. UG education can be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period. For example,  Certificate after 1 year, Advanced Diploma after 2 years, Bachelor’s Degree after 3 years and Bachelor’s with Research after 4 years.
  • An Academic Bank of Credit is to be established for digitally storing academic credits earned from different  HEIs so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned.
  • Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, to  be set up as models  of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country.
  • The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.
  • Regulation : Higher Education Commission of India(HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body the for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education. HECI to have  four independent verticals  – National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation, General Education Council (GEC ) for standard setting, Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding,  and National Accreditation Council( NAC) for accreditation. HECI will  function through faceless intervention through technology, & will have powers to penalise HEIs not conforming to norms and standards. Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards.
  • Rationalised Institutional Architecture : Higher education institutions will be transformed into large, well resourced, vibrant multidisciplinary institutions  providing  high quality teaching, research, and community engagement. The definition of university will allow a spectrum of institutions that range from Research-intensive Universities to Teaching-intensive Universities and Autonomous degree-granting Colleges. 
  • Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges. Over a period of time, it is envisaged that every college would develop into either an Autonomous degree-granting College, or a constituent college of a university.
  • Motivated, Energized, and Capable Faculty : NEP makes recommendations for motivating, energizing, and building capacity of  faculty thorughclearly defined, independent, transparent recruitment , freedom to design curricula/pedagogy, incentivising excellence, movement into institutional leadership. Faculty not delivering on basic norms will be held accountable
  • Teacher Education : A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT. By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree .Stringent action will be taken against substandard stand-alone Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs).
  • Mentoring Mission : A National Mission for Mentoring will be established, with a large pool of outstanding senior/retired faculty – including those with the ability to teach in Indian languages – who would be willing to provide short and long-term mentoring/professional support to university/college teachers.
  • Financial support for students : Efforts will be made to incentivize the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs. The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships. Private HEIs will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of free ships and scholarships to their students.
  • Open and Distance Learning : This will be expanded to play a significant role in increasing GER. Measures such as online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, credit-based recognition of MOOCs, etc., will be taken to ensure it is at par with the highest quality in-class programmes.
  • Online Education and Digital Education: A comprehensive set of recommendations for promoting online education consequent to the recent rise in epidemics and pandemics in order to ensure preparedness with alternative modes of quality education whenever and wherever traditional and in-person modes of education are not possible, has been covered. A dedicated unit for the purpose of orchestrating the building of digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be created in the MHRD to look after the e-education needs of both school and higher education.
  • Technology in education :  An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration. Appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education will be done to improve classroom processes, support teacher professional development, enhance educational access for disadvantaged groups and streamline educational planning, administration and management
  • Promotion of Indian languages : To ensure the preservation, growth, and vibrancy of all Indian languages, NEP recommends setting an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI), National Institute (or Institutes) for Pali, Persian and Prakrit, strengthening of Sanskrit and all language departments in HEIs,  and use mother tongue/local language as a medium of instruction in more HEI  programmes .
  • Internationalization of education will be facilitated through both institutional collaborations, and student and faculty mobility and allowing entry of top world ranked Universities to open campuses in our country.

Professional and Adult Education

  • Professional Education : All professional education will be an integral part of the higher education system. Stand-alone technical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities etc will aim to become multi-disciplinary institutions.
  • Adult Education : Policy  aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.
  • Financing Education : The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.

2 . Pandemic Prices: COVID-19 price shocks and their implications for nutrition security in India

Context : Food habits during coronavirus (COVID-19) may have shifted from diverse and nutritive diets to staple foods such as wheat and rice as the prices of vegetables, pulses and eggs rose sharply after the lockdown while those of cereals remained relatively stable, according to a new study by the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition in New York.

About the Study

  • The study, “Pandemic Prices: COVID-19 price shocks and their implications for nutrition security in India,” 
  • It analyses prices of cereals (wheat and rice) and non-cereals (onion, tomatoes, potatoes, five pulses and eggs) in 11 tier-1 and tier-2 cities from March 1 to May 31 compared to the same period last year. It uses weekly-level retail data from the Department of Commerce Affairs of the Union government and wholesale prices from the National Egg Coordination Committee. The nationwide lockdown was imposed from March 25.

Key Findings of the Study

  • The study revealed that following the lockdown all food groups witnessed a rise in prices compared to 2019, but the rise in prices was higher for non-cereals compared to cereals.
  • After the lockdown was lifted, prices of cereals, eggs, potatoes, onions and tomatoes stabilised quickly while those of protein-rich pulses continued to remain high.
  • Retail wheat and rice prices were either stable or cheaper than weeks preceding the lockdown as well as same time last year.
  • Compared to last year, the potato price was as high as 30-90% in several cities but stabilised by the first week of May; the price of onions was as high as 200-250% immediately after the lockdown in some States and stabilised by April end, and higher in some cases; and tomatoes were higher compared to pre-COVID-19 period but began to show a downward trend. The wholesale prices of eggs show that they fell initially (authors argue it was because of fear of coronavirus through poultry), increased by March end and then stabilised two months later.
  • Prices of pulses rose during the lockdown and continued to remain higher than the pre-COVID-19 levels — arhar (tur dal) was up by up to 45%, red lentil (masur dal) by 20-50%, moong dal by 20-80% gram dal ranged from 10 to 40% and urad dal by 0-80%.


  • “The relative stability in cereal prices and enhanced prices of pulses will most likely distort spending and consumption decisions. This will perpetuate reliance on a staple-based, protein-deficient diet. The government can ensure the provision of supplementary protein that is expected to be lost due to the price rise by timely interventions to stabilise the increase in prices
  • The report submits that the relatively higher prices of more nutritious food makes it difficult for the poor and marginal population to access such nutrient-rich food. As a result, proportion of such foods in the diets goes further down and is replaced by less nutritious and calorie-dense foods. This is likely to worsen the nutritional status of women and children across India, and more so in the impoverished regions of the country

3 . Antibiotic in Livestock

Context : Antibiotics are extensively misused in the dairy sector and its residues remain largely untested in milk, which is an integral part of Indian diets, particularly of children, noted a recently published survey report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) which on Wednesday organised an online meeting on antibiotic use in the dairy sector.


  • India is the world’s largest milk producer — it produced a massive 188 million tonnes in 2018-19. Urban areas consume 52% of it, and the unorganised sector, comprising milkmen and contractors, caters to 60% of this consumer base; the remaining demand is met by dairy cooperatives and private dairies which represent the organised sector.

About the Issue

  • The CSE’s assessment shows that dairy farmers indiscriminately use antibiotics for diseases such as mastitis (infection/inflammation of the udder), a common ailment in dairy animals.
  • Often, these include critically important antibiotics (CIAs) for humans — the WHO has warned that they should be preserved in view of the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance.
  • “The abused antibiotics — despite a law against it — are easily available without the prescription of a registered veterinarian and stocked at farms. Farmers often inject animals based on their own judgment of signs and symptoms of a disease without any veterinary supervision,’’ noted the CSE in its report.
  • The CSE researchers also point towards inadequate focus on testing for antibiotic residues in the milk collected by some State federations, which process it and sell packaged milk and dairy products under popular brands.

Concerns of Antibiotic Resistance

  • Misuse of Antibiotics are found in diary sector which increases the risk of Antibiotic resistance
  • Farmers often sell milk while the animal is under treatment, which increases the chances of antibiotic residues. While milk sold directly to consumers is not tested, contrary to what one would expect, processed milk sold in packets is also largely unchecked for antibiotic residues


  • Widespread use of antibiotics has contributed to the control of diseases and the nutritional well-being of livestock. However, the use of antibiotics in the treatment of mastitis has created problems for the milk processor and consumer.
  • Following treatment of mastitis with antibiotics, they may be found in the milk in sufficient concentrations to inhibit dairy starter microorganisms and cause economic losses to the cheese and fermented milk industries.
  • Penicillin in very small concentrations found in milk may cause reactions in highly sensitive individuals.

4 . Protest as a Fundamental Right

Context : The independent experts on the Human Rights Committee published a fresh interpretation of the right of peaceful assembly, offering comprehensive legal guidance about where and how it applies and also outlining governments’ obligations. The committee, made up of 18 independent experts, is tasked with monitoring how countries implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which under Article 21 guarantees the right to peaceful assembly.

About the News

  • The UN Human Rights Committee, made up of 18 individual experts who monitor implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has issued a comprehensive legal guidance, also known as ‘general comment’, on article 21 of ICCPR about fundamental right of peaceful assembly. 
  • The general comment was the first major international instrument that was also drafted online, since the experts were unable to meet in person due to the pandemic.

Key Observation

  • “It is a fundamental human right for individuals to join a peaceful assembly to express themselves, to celebrate, or to air grievances. Together with other rights related to political freedom, it constitutes the very foundation of a democratic society, in which changes can be pursued through discussion and persuasion, rather than use of force
  • “Everyone, including children, foreign nationals, women, migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees, can exercise the right of peaceful assembly, which may take many forms: in public and in private spaces, outdoors, indoors and online
  • The Committee also stated that governments have positive obligations under the Covenant to facilitate peaceful assemblies and to protect participants from potential abuse by other members of the public. Governments also have negative duties, such as not to prohibit, restrict, block or disrupt assemblies without compelling justification.
  • “Generalised references to public order or public safety, or an unspecified risk of potential violence are not solid grounds for governments to prohibit peaceful assemblies.
  • Any restriction on participation in peaceful assemblies should be based on a differentiated or individualised assessment of the conduct of participants. Blanket restrictions on participation in peaceful assemblies are not appropriate

About UN Human Rights Committee

  • The Human Rights Committee was established to monitor the implementation of the ICCPR. It is composed of 18 independent experts with recognized competence in the field of human rights. Committee members are elected for a term of four years and must be from countries that have ratified the Covenant.
  • As of January 2019, members of the Committee come from: Albania, Canada, Chile, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Guyana,  Israel, Japan, Latvia, Mauritania, Paraguay, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Tunisia, and Uganda.

About United Nations International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

  • The ICCPR is a key international human rights treaty, providing a range of protections for civil and political rights.
  • The ICCPR, together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, are considered the International Bill of Human Rights.
  • The ICCPR obligates countries that have ratified the treaty to protect and preserve basic human rights, such as: the right to life and human dignity; equality before the law; freedom of speech, assembly, and association; religious freedom and privacy; freedom from torture, ill-treatment, and arbitrary detention; gender equality; the right to a fair trial; right family life and family unity; and minority rights.
  • The Covenant compels governments to take administrative, judicial, and legislative measures in order to protect the rights enshrined in the treaty and to provide an effective remedy.
  • The Covenant was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1966 and came into force in 1976. As of December 2018, 172 countries have ratified the Covenant.

Article 21

  • The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

5 . Perseverance

NASA’s Previous Mars Mission

  • NASA’s incredible journey of driving on Mars started about 23 years ago, in 1997: when the Mars Pathfinder Mission with the Sojourner rover egressed on the Martian soil.
  • NASA then send twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, to Mars in 2003, followed by Curiosity in 2012, followed by Perseverance
  • The Sojourner rover, a technology demonstration mission, lasted for 83 days. Spirit and Opportunity set a new paradigm of a long term robotic presence on Mars, lasting about 6 and 15 years, respectively. Curiosity landed in 2012: and continues to operate today.
  • With each rover generation, the number and the complexity of scientific instruments increased. Sojourner was a small rover, almost like a toy, a couple of feet in length and width. Spirit and Opportunity were much larger: about the size of a golf cart. Curiosity and Perseverance are the size of a small car.

Importance of Rovers

  • The science returns of exploring Mars with a rover have been very significant. Rovers provide a way to study the local area in much higher resolution than is possible from an orbiting spacecraft. In addition, rovers have a suite of instruments from drills to spectrometers to microscopic imagers: these instruments help understand the local geology much like a field geologist would study rocks on Earth. In addition, starting with Spirit and Opportunity, rovers have acted as mobile weather stations on Mars that monitor changes in the Martian atmosphere continuously over multiple years.
  • With each new generation of rovers, NASA has added new capabilities and a somewhat different instrument suite to answer important scientific questions.
  • Examples would be the addition of a drill on Spirit and Opportunity, and a mass spectrometer, an instrument to measure isotopes of different elements, for Curiosity. With the launch of Mars Perseverance, the fourth generation of Mars rovers, NASA will take forward this tradition.

What is new with Perseverance?

  • First, Perseverance will carry a unique instrument, MOXIE or Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment: which for the first time will manufacture molecular oxygen on Mars using carbon dioxide from the carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere.
    • There is the new push for ISRU at NASA: in NASA jargon, ISRU means In Situ Resource Utilization: or the use of local resources to meet human needs or requirements of the spacecraft. Without ISRU, exploration of Mars in the future decades will be incredibly expensive and thereby impossible.
    • If astronauts have to carry oxygen or water or rocket fuel for their journey for a two-year journey to Mars and back, the cost will be understandably excessive.
    • If oxygen can be successfully extracted on Mars in some significant scale, this can have two direct advantages: first, the oxygen can be used for human visitors to Mars, and second, the oxygen can be used to manufacture rocket fuel for the return journey.
    • Thus, if the technology demonstration is successful, NASA can easily scale up the oxygen generation rate per day for MOXIE by a hundred times: this would be of great use for a future human mission to Mars.
  • Second, Perseverance will carry Ingenuity, the first ever helicopter to fly on Mars.
    • This is the first time NASA will fly a helicopter on another planet or satellite. Ingenuity is a technology demonstration: the challenge, of course, is to fly the helicopter in the thin atmosphere of Mars.
    • Like a drone on Earth, a Mars helicopter can help in rover drive planning and in fetching samples from locations that the rover cannot safely drive to. If this technology demonstration is successful, we will see a greater role for such helicopters in future missions.
  • Third, Perseverance is the planned first step to bring back rock samples from Mars for analysis in sophisticated laboratories on Earth: with the goal of looking for biosignatures: or signatures of present or past life. Perseverance will collect samples and a second rover mission will fly within a decade to help transport the rock samples back to Earth.
    • The analysis of Martian rocks on Earth will likely provide a reliable indication of whether life on Mars is feasible in the past or at present.

6 . Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

Context : With Commonwealth countries accounting for about 40% of people living in conditions of modern slavery in the world, the 54 nations were found lacking in actions to eradicate modern slavery by 2030, according to a report released by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and an international anti-slavery organisation Walk Free, on Thursday, on the occasion of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

About the Report

  • The report assessed the progress made by Commonwealth countries on the promises made in 2018 to end modern slavery by 2030 and achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ending forced labour, human trafficking and child labour.

Key observations in the Report

  • “Commonwealth countries have made little progress towards their commitment to eradicate modern slavery by 2030, despite an estimated one in every 150 people in the Commonwealth living in conditions of modern slavery
  • The report found that one-third of the Commonwealth countries had criminalised forced marriage, while 23 had not criminalised commercial sexual exploitation of children.
  • Out of 54 countries, only four engage with business to investigate supply chains, and all countries report gaps in victim assistance programs,” the statement said.

About India

  • The report stated that India had fared the worst in terms of coordination, “with no national coordinating body or National Action Plan in place”.
  • India, like all other Commonwealth countries in Asia, had not ratified the International Labour Organisation’s 2011 Domestic Workers Convention or the 2014 Forced Labour Protocol.
  • The report said India accounted for one-third of all child brides in the world. None of the Asian countries in the group had implemented laws against forced labour in supply chains, it said.
  • According to the report despite being the largest country in the region, India has the weakest response on national coordination, with no national coordinating body or National Action Plan in place.

7 . Merger under Tenth Schedule

Context : The BSP is gearing up for a legal battle of its own in the Rajasthan political drama around Congress Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s claim to power. The BSP is trying to win back its six MLAs who later joined the Congress, or at least to keep them from supporting Gehlot. Does the anti-defection law apply here?

What does the “merger” of BSP with Congress mean?

  • The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution prohibits defection to protect the stability of governments but does not prohibit mergers. Paragraph 4(2) of the Tenth Schedule, dealing with mergers, says that only when two-thirds of the members agree to “merge” the party would they be exempt from disqualification.
  • The “merger” referred to in Paragraph 4(2) is seen as legal fiction, where members are deemed to have merged for the purposes of being exempt from disqualification, rather than a merger in the true sense.

On what grounds is BSP’s case based?

  • The BSP’s contention is that the merger is illegal and unconstitutional because for a national party, such merger has to take place at the national level. Supporting this argument, Satish Mishra has cited two decisions of the Supreme Court: a three-judge 2006 bench ruling in Jagjit Singh v State of Haryana, and a five-judge bench 2007 ruling in Rajendra Singh Rana And Ors vs Swami Prasad Maurya.
  • The first decision relates to four legislators from single-member parties in the Haryana Assembly, who said their parties had split and later joined the Congress. The court upheld the Speaker’s decisions disqualifying them.
  • The second decision, involving the BSP itself and the Samajwadi Party, also deals with “split”. In the 2002 Uttar Pradesh elections, 37 MLAs — one-third of the BSP strength — “split” from the party after its government fell, to support SP. The SC ruled that the split cannot be recognised primarily because not all these MLAs split at once.
  • The key aspect is that these cases deal with splits where when one-third of the members of a legislative party splits; they could not attract disqualification as per Paragraph 3 of the Tenth Schedule.
  • In 2003, through the 91st Constitutional Amendment, Paragraph 3 was deleted from the Tenth Schedule. The amendment was made as the one-third split rule was grossly misused by parties to engineer divisions and indulge in horse-trading. One-third was regarded as an easy target to achieve and the law now exempts defection only when it is at two-thirds (in a merger).

Are there any such precedents?

  • In July 2019, 10 of the 15 Congress MLAs in Goa joined the BJP taking the ruling party’s tally to 27 in the 40 member House. Since they formed two-thirds of the strength of the legislative party unit, they are exempt from disqualification. However, the Speaker’s decision not to disqualify them is under challenge before the Supreme Court.
  • In June last year, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu issued orders to “merge” the TDP with the ruling BJP in Rajya Sabha after four of its five MPs defected. Although TDP still has a presence in the Upper House through its lone MP, the party was deemed to have merged only for the purpose of not attracting penalty under the Tenth Schedule for the four MPs who defected. The TDP, too, raised arguments similar to what BSP is now claiming that a “merger” can only take place at an organisational level of the party and not in the House.
  • In 2016, two years after the TDP won 15 seats in the Telangana elections, 12 of its MLAs joined the ruling TRS. The Speaker recognised the defection as a merger since more than two-thirds had moved.

8 . Pratihara Architecture

Context : A long-pending case of idol theft finally saw an important development as Natesa, a rare sandstone idol in the 9th century Prathihara style of Rajasthan, is returning to the country after 22 years. The Natesa icon, currently at the Indian High Commission, London, was originally from the Ghateswara Temple, Baroli, Rajasthan.

About the Natesa Idol

  • The sandstone Natesa figure stands tall at almost 4 ft. in a rare and brilliant depiction of Shiva in the late 9th century Prathihara style of Rajasthan.
  • A beautiful depiction of Nandi is shown behind the right leg of the Natesa icon.
  • The stone Nataraj or Natesha murti, in “chatura pose with jatamakuta and trinetra” and almost four-feet-tall, is a rare depiction of Lord Shiva in the Prathihara style.
  • It was stolen in February 1998 from Ghateshwar Temple in Baroli, Rajasthan. In 2003, it came to light that the statue had been smuggled out to the UK.

Pratihara Style of Architecture

  • Gurjara-Pratihara are known for their sculptures, carved panels and open pavilion style temples.
  • The greatest development of their style of temple building was at Khajuraho, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9 . Facts for Prelims

Loan recast

  • India Inc has been pushing for extension of the moratorium further or a one-time loan restructuring plan, which would allow borrowers to renegotiate loan terms to extend the repayment cycle and cut loan rates.

Gandhi-King Initiative

  • The foreign affairs committee of the US House of Representatives passed a legislation for consideration of the full chamber that seeks to set up an exchange programme for Indian and American students to study Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
  • The Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative Act was authored by John Lewis, the civil rights leader Democratic member of the House who passed away last week. It had been a long-running project for him. Lewis first introduced the bill in October 2011, two yeas after he led a congressional delegation to India to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King’s 1959 visit to India.
  • The bill seeks to authorise the state department to set up, in cooperation with the Indian government, an educational forum for scholars from the two countries focussed on studying Gandhi and King.
  • It also seeks the development of a professional development training initiative on conflict resolution based on the principles of non-violence, and the establishment of a foundation to address social, environmental, and health priorities in India.

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