IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


20th January, 2020


2020 will be an important year for Indo-U.S. relations: American official

Important year for Indo-US relations:

-       Put into practice many of the decisions taken during the 2+2 talks.

-       Furthering cooperation on a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.

-       Promote practical cooperation in infrastructure development, cyber security, counter-terrorism and regional connectivity.

-       Concept of the “Indo-Pacific geography” includes California to Kilimanjaro.

Blue Dot Network Initiative:

-       Launched by USA.

-       It has already taken Japan and Australia on board.

-       It seeks to encourage private investment in infrastructure projects.

-       The network is “ratings mechanism” that would grade infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific region on different parameters to ensure transparency and is planned as direct counter to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

-       Unlike the BRI, the BDN would not offer public funds or loans for the project.

-       It is hoping to build support for this initiative to grade infrastructure projects on debt, environmental standards, labour standards, etc.

-       These would apply to projects in any citizen-centric country where citizens would like to evaluate these projects.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/2020-will-be-an-important-year-for-indo-us-relations-american-official/article30579088.ece


Government has failed in e-mobility mission, says plea in Supreme Court

Petitioner’s arguments:

-       Governmental apathy has violated the fundamental rights of citizens to health and clean environment guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

-       The government had failed in its obligation to mitigate the impact of climate change and air pollution.

-       Due to lack of implementation of the recommendations, as of January 2019, only 0.263 millions EVs have been sold in the country thus far.

-       Total allocation by the Union of India thus far has been woefully inadequate at Rs. 579 crores.

E-mobility mission:

-       It is a National Mission document providing the vision and the roadmap for the faster adoption of electric vehicles and their manufacturing in the country.

-       There is an ambitious target to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles year on year from 2020 onwards.

-       Government aims to provide fiscal and monetary incentives to kick start this nascent technology.

-       It is expected to save 9500 Million Liters of crude oil equivalent to Rs. 62000 Cr. savings.

-       It is a composite scheme using different policy-levers such as:

-       Demand side incentives to facilitate acquisition of hybrid/electric vehicles

-       Promoting R&D in technology including battery technology, power electronics, motors, systems integration, battery management system, testing infrastructure, and ensuring industry participation in the same

-       Promoting charging infrastructure

-       Supply side incentives

-       Encouraging retro-fitment of on-road vehicles with hybrid kit

Implementation of E-mobility Mission:

As part of the NEMMP 2020, Department of Heavy Industry formulated a Scheme viz. Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) Scheme in the year 2015 to promote manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicle technology.

Target of FAME scheme:

-                 Demand Creation

-                 Technology Platform

-                 Pilot Project

-                 Charging Infrastructure.

-       Grants were sanctioned for specific projects under Pilot Projects, R&D/Technology Development and Public Charging Infrastructure components under the scheme.

-       Demand incentives was aimed at incentivizing all vehicle segments i.e. 2-Wheelers, 3-Wheelers Auto, Passenger 4-Wheeler vehicles, Light Commercial Vehicles and Buses.

-       Market creation through demand incentives was aimed at incentivizing all vehicle segments i.e. 2-Wheelers, 3-Wheelers Auto, Passenger 4-Wheeler vehicles, Light Commercial Vehicles and Buses.

Other Initiatives to Promote e-mobility:

-       Under new GST regime, the rates of GST on Electric Vehicles has been kept in the lower bracket of 12% (with no Cess) as against the 28% GST rate with Cess up to 22% for conventional vehicles.

-       Ministry of Power has allowed sale of electricity as ‘service’ for charging of electric vehicles. This would provide a huge incentive to attract investments into charging infrastructure.

-       Ministry of Road Transport Highways issued notification regarding exemption of permit in case of battery-operated vehicles.

-       Issue of Expression of Interest (EoI) for deployment of 5000 electric buses by State Transport Departments/Undertakings etc.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/goverment-has-failed-in-e-mobility-mission-says-plea-in-supreme-court/article30586948.ece


Centre for tougher law against sexual harassment at work

Recommendations of the Group of Ministers (GoM) to strengthen the legal framework to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace:

-       Addition of new provisions to the Indian Penal Code.

-       Proposed amendments would be largely based on the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in 1997.

-       The Verma committee had recommended an employment tribunal, instead of an ICC, as dealing with such complaints in-house could discourage women from coming out.

Background of the Panel:

-       The Panel was set up in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement after many women shared their ordeal on social media.

-       It also examined the report of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee that was constituted in the wake of the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder in 2012.

Shortcomings of the act:

-       Giving the powers of a civil court to the internal complaints committee (ICC) without specifying if the members need to have a legal background.

-       It only imposed a fine of ₹50,000 on employers for non-compliance.

-       The act said the employer should provide assistance to the woman if she chooses to file a complaint under the IPC “against the perpetrator after the conclusion of the enquiry”.

Sexual harassment at work place Act:

-       Number of sexual harassment incidents at “work or office premises” registered under Section 509 IPC (words, gesture or act to insult the modesty of a woman) were 479 and 401 in the years 2017 and 2018 respectively.

-       It seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work.

-       The Act defines sexual harassment at the work place and creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints. It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.

-       The Act also covers concepts of 'quid pro quo harassment' and 'hostile work environment' as forms of sexual harassment if it occurs in connection with an act or behaviour of sexual harassment.

-       The definition of "aggrieved woman", who will get protection under the Act is extremely wide to cover all women, irrespective of her age or employment status, whether in the organised or unorganised sectors, public or private and covers clients, customers and domestic workers as well.

-       An employer has been defined as any person who is responsible for management, supervision, and control of the workplace and includes persons who formulate and administer policies of such an organisation under Section 2(g).

-       The Committee is required to complete the inquiry within a time period of 90 days. On completion of the inquiry, the report will be sent to the employer or the District Officer, as the case may be, they are mandated to take action on the report within 60 days.

-       Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.

-        The District Officer is required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee at each district, and if required at the block level.

-       The Complaints Committees have the powers of civil courts for gathering evidence.

-       The Complaints Committees are required to provide for conciliation before initiating an inquiry, if requested by the complainant.

Criticism of the act:

-       Bill does not protect men, saying it "is based on the premise that only female employees needed to be safeguarded.

-       They called out the fact that there is no stipulated liability for employers in cases of employee-to-employee harassment, something upheld in many other countries.

-       Many critics perceive that timely manner grievance redressal by the employers is problematic because of potentially uncooperative employees.

-       The law requires a third-party non-governmental organisation to be involved, which could make employers less comfortable in reporting grievances, due to confidentiality concerns.

-       Compliance to this statute has so far been left to the vagaries of the employers and government has not taken any significant step to enforce the law so far.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/centre-for-tougher-law-against-sexual-harassment-at-work/article30601660.ece


Ahead of holiday, China gears up to contain virus outbreak

China will step up efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays.

Corona virus:

-       It belongs in the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during 2002-03 outbreaks that also started in China.

-       Not clear whether the mystery virus can be transmitted between humans.

Method to deal with outbreak of virus:

-       Continue active epidemiological research.

-       Coordinate with the World Health Organization and related agencies to conduct a risk assessment.

-       Urged people who develop a cough or fever after visiting Wuhan to wear a surgical mask and visit a medical institution.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/ahead-of-holiday-china-gears-up-to-contain-virusoutbreak/article30601988.ece


A rare migratory eagle sighted near Vijayawada

A lone endangered steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis) has been sighted by a group of bird watchers in a paddy field at Velagaleru near Vijayawada.

Steppe eagle:

-       It is believed to be the second-largest migratory eagle species to India.

-       In winter, steppe eagle breeds in Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

-       Conversion of open habitats to aquaculture, pesticides and various effluents are threatening this species.


Reference:  https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/a-rare-migratory-eagle-sighted/article30601554.ece


146 Irrawaddy dolphins sighted in Odisha's Chilika


Odisha Forest Department officials, wildlife experts and researchers sighted 146 endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in Chilika Lake, which boasts of the highest single lagoon population of the aquatic mammal in the world.

Counting of dolphins:

-       It does counting of dolphins round the year using hydrophones.

-       The population is likely to increase in the next couple of years, as there are enough signs of dolphins migrating from the Satpada side to other areas.

-       The total population of these aquatic mammals in the world is estimated to be less than 7,500.

-       Of these, more than 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins have been reported from Bangladesh, while the dolphin distribution in Chilika is considered to be the highest single lagoon population.

Irrawaddy dolphins:

-       Irrawaddy dolphins are found in coastal areas in South and Southeast Asia, and in three rivers: the Ayeyarwady (Myanmar), the Mahakam (Indonesian Borneo) and the Mekong.

-       Their habitats are freshwater.

-       Endangered status is being granted to them under the IUCN red list.


Repatriated Bru's in Mizoram demand package parity

A resettlement decision taken on January 16 to end the 22-year-old issue of the displaced Bru tribal people has triggered resentment among those who had accepted the earlier rehabilitation package and returned to Mizoram from where they had been displaced.

Their demand:

-       There is disparity between the package offered to Bru’s repatriated to Mizoram and those who would be permanently settled in Tripura after refusing to be repatriated.

-       The government should ensure that the repatriated Bru families receive a rehabilitation package equivalent to the one for settlement in Tripura.

-       Each of the 6,000 repatriated Bru’s received ₹80,000 on their return to Mizoram and was entitled to free rations for a year.

Final Settlement:

-       The displaced people will be settled in Tripura permanently.

-       Bru’s would get voting rights and tribal status in Tripura.

-       Bru’s who settled in Mizoram would not have an option to come back.

-       Community members would also get a one-time assistance of Rs. 4 lakh as fixed deposit.

-       A 40/30 feet plot of land, an aid of Rs. 5,000/month for the next two years, free ration and Rs. 1.5 lakh to build houses will be given to them.

-       The Tripura government has identified land to settle them.

-       Funds to buy land would be jointly shared by the Centre and the State government.

About Bru issues:

-       Reangs or Bru’s are the second largest ethnic group in Mizoram. In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group and are second most populous tribe after the Tripuris.

-       Bru’s leaders had demanded an Autonomous District Council (ADC) for the tribe under the sixth Schedule of the Constitution in the western areas of Mizoram, where they were present in sizable numbers but Mizos formed the majority.

-       Their exodus in 1997 was spurred by violent clashes in Mamith subdivision, a Reang-dominated area.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/repatriated-brus-in-mizoram-demand-package-parity/article30601646.ece


India successfully test-fires 3,500-km range submarine-launched ballistic missile K-4

Details of the test:

-       The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from a submerged pontoon off the Visakhapatnam coast carried out the test.

-       There are very few countries, which have managed to achieve this technological breakthrough.

-       Circular Error Probability (CEP) of the missile is much more sophisticated than Chinese missiles.

-       These missiles will be the mainstay of the Arihant class of indigenous ballistic missile nuclear submarines (SSBN).

-       INS Arihant, the first and only operational SSBN, is armed with K-15 Sagarika missiles with a range of 750 km.



About INS Arihant:

-       INS Arihant (SSBN 80) is the lead ship of India's Arihant class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.

-       The Arihant-class submarines are reported to be based on the Akula-class submarine.

-       The vessel will be powered by an 83 megawatts pressurised light-water reactor with enriched uranium fuel.

-       The consultancy for this project was provided by Russia.

Significance of INS Arihant:

-       India has formally declared its nuclear triad stated in its nuclear doctrine.

-       Given India’s position of ‘No-First-Use’ (NFU) in launching nuclear weapons, the SSBN is the most dependable platform for a second-strike.

-       They are powered by nuclear reactors; these submarines can stay underwater indefinitely without the adversary detecting it.

-       The other two platforms — land based and air launched are far easier to detect.

Nuclear Triad:

-       A nuclear triad is a three-pronged military force structure that consists of land-launched nuclear missiles, nuclear-missile-armed submarines and strategic aircraft with nuclear bombs and missiles.

-       These components are land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and strategic bombers.

-       The purpose of having this three-branched nuclear capability is to significantly reduce the possibility that an enemy could destroy all of a nation's nuclear forces in a first-strike attack.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-successfully-test-fires-3500-km-k-4-slbm/article30601739.ece