IASCLUB Daily 9urrent Affairs : 04 July 2016

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Ex-officials cast doubt on poll result 

Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity

 Listing out serious irregularities in the conduct of the 2019 Lok Sabha election, a group of former senior civil servants has said that “there is no doubt that the mandate of 2019 has been thrown into serious doubt.”

More in news:

  • In an open letter to the Election Commission of India, 64 retired IAS, IFS and IPS officers said, “The 2019 General Elections appear to have been one of the least free and fair elections that the country has had in the past three decades or so.”
  • The issues raised in the letter include serious violations of the Model Code of Conduct by the Prime Minister and senior BJP leaders, which were ignored by the ECI; allegations of voter exclusion; blatant media violations including the rise of Namo TV and suspicion of bias in the election schedule and a number of concerns related to Electronic Voting Machines, among other issues.
  • The letter, which was also endorsed by 83 veterans, academics and activists, accused the ECI of glaring bias. It warned that, unlike in previous elections, “an impression has gathered ground that our democratic process is being subverted and undermined by the very constitutional authority empowered to safeguard its sanctity.”
  • The retired officers criticised the ECI for ignoring hate speeches and communal statements by BJP leaders until it was pulled up by the Supreme Court, even then failing to take effective action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.
  • They held that the dissenting opinion of Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa on this issue should have been published.

Baloch Liberation Army, a rebel force with many faces

Topic: GS –II: International relations

The U.S. on Tuesday designated the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) as a terror organisation.

Key points:

  • the U.S. State Department in a statement that the BLA is an armed separatist group that targets security forces and civilians, mainly in ethnic Baloch areas of Pakistan.
  • The BLA, the armed wing of the Baloch movement, has carried out several violent attacks in Pakistan. It has about 6,000 cadre spread across the Balochistan Province and in the bordering areas of Afghanistan.

Who are their leaders?

  • The BLA, which has been banned by Pakistan since 2006, has maintained a fluid leadership pattern.
  • In 2018, Aslam Baloch, the young radical leader of the BLA, was killed in a suicide bombing in Kandahar along with some of his followers. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Aslam had travelled to India in the past and met with people sympathetic to the Baloch cause.
  • The organisation lost a major supporter with the October 18 assassination of Kandahar police chief General Razik by the Taliban. Since the assassination of Aslam, the BLA has maintained silence about its leadership. It is known that regional commanders are playing a crucial role in steering the organisation at present.
  • Apart from the BLA, the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), founded by Jumma Khan in 1964, is the other recognised armed militant organisation fighting for the cause of Baloch freedom. The BLF used to be popular once, but it is believed that most of the BLF fighters have merged with the BLA.
  • Almost all the militant Baloch leadership figures either live out of Pakistan or are in exile. There are continuous reports of military crackdown against them. The operation against Aslam Baloch was one of the several high-profile operations carried out by Pakistan’s military against the militant organisation.

What’s BLA’s ideology?

  • BLA rebels claim that Pakistan has been exploiting the resources of the Province without giving the due share to the locals and the indigenous Baloch tribes. In recent years, the BLA has emerged as a movement with a network of supporters in both urban and rural areas of Balochistan, and has created a space for itself away from the traditional hold of tribal chieftains (sardars).
  • BLA rebels have claimed that they are aiming for both freedom from Pakistan and internal reform of the Baloch society.
  • In comparison with the BLA, which is amorphous and led by local commanders in charge of city and regions of Balochistan, the Free Balochistan Movement and the Baloch Republican Party are led by scions of the Marri and Bugti clans. Both the Marris and the Bugtis have suffered in the hands of the Pakistan military but do not espouse a direct military confrontation with the Pakistani state.

India’s approach

  • It is established that BLA commanders, in the past, had sought medical treatment in India’s hospitals, often under disguise or with fake identity.
  • In one such case, a militant commander in charge of Khuzdar city was based in Delhi for at least six months in 2017 when he underwent extensive treatment for kidney-related ailments. Pakistan has blamed India for supporting the Baloch rebels.
  • It is known that the Baloch sardars like the late Akbar Bugti and Ghaus Bukhsh Bizenjo maintained warm personal ties with various Indian political figures. However, visits by militants are often under assumed identities unlike those by prominent well known leaders.
  • Another leader, who visited India last year, was Mama Qadeer. He has become a popular face of civil society movement after he launched a long march seeking the truth about his missing son, a Baloch activist.

U.S. ban

  • Pakistan is expected to make it difficult for commanders and module chiefs of the BLA to travel in the region. The fighters are also likely to find fund-raising more difficult.
  • In a communication to The Hindu, Baloch rebels, however, have indicated that they are planning to intensify the struggle against Pakistan as they remain “the most popular” militant organisation in Balochistan despite Pakistan military’s crackdown.

27% of children with disabilities have never been to school: UNESCO

Topic: GS–II: Social Justice  

A report by UNESCO and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences released on Wednesday recommends structural, funding and attitudinal changes to ensure that no child is left out of the right to education.

 Census data

  • Citing 2011 census data, the report showed that there are more than 78 lakh children with disabilities in the country between 5-19 years. Only 61% of them were attending an educational institution. About 12% had dropped out, while 27% had never been to school at all.
  • The number of children [with disabilities] enrolled in school drops significantly with each successive level of schooling. There are fewer girls with disabilities in school than boys.
  • In 2014-15, there were more than 15 lakh children with disabilities in primary school. Two years later, enrolment had dropped by more than two lakh, data shows. At the higher secondary school level, there were less than 63,000 such children in 2016-17.
  • Differences remain among various types of disabilities. Only 20% of children with visual and hearing impairments had never been in school. However, among children with multiple disabilities or mental illness, that figure rose to more than 50%.

 Home-based education

  • Experts say the situation is worse than what the statistics show as the government data on enrolment includes home-based education, which often exists only on paper for children with disabilities.
  • In many parts of rural India, if a parent opts for home-based education, the child may not be getting an education at all.
  • The Right to Education Act mandates enrolment, but not the provision of resources needed for the actual education of a child with disabilities.
  • Amendments to the RTE Act, 2009 to make it align with the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 are among the major recommendations of the report.

Soon, read SC judgments in your language

Topic: GS–II: Social Justice  

In a novel measure, the Supreme Court will translate its judgments into all vernacular languages for the benefit of the public and litigants across the length and breadth of the country.

More in news:

  • The software application is intended to be launched by mid-July.

In single phase

  • The court was taking the help of the High Courts in making the move a success. Most likely, the new app would be launched in the inaugural function of the Supreme Court’s new office buildings at Appu Ghar
  • The move is the brainchild of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
  • The CJI had said the project included not only translating the apex court judgments into Hindi and other vernacular languages but also to provide summaries of the apex court’s verdicts. This, was to benefit litigants, who after fighting their cases for years, were left unable to read the judgments in their own cases for the sole reason that they did not know English.
  • In the Constitution Day function last year, President Kovind took the opportunity to laud the CJI for proposing the initiative to provide certified copies of judgments, translated from English to regional languages, to litigants.

Why the Economic Survey matters

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

Each year, a day before the presentation of the full-fledged annual Union Budget, the country Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) releases the Economic Survey. This year’s edition will be presented on July 4 and it would be the first one to be presented under the leadership of the new CEA Krishnamurthy Subramanian.

  • However, notwithstanding the close proximity of its release with the Union Budget, the Economic Survey is not exactly a predictor of the Budget proposals. Still, it is a very important document because it provides an authoritative, detailed and official annual summary of the current state of play in the Indian economy
  • In fact, beyond the summary, the Economic Survey also paints a variety of future scenarios, highlighting likely challenges and pointing to possible solutions. In the past few years, the Economic Survey has been presented in two volumes. For example, in the last year’s Survey, which was the last one presented by the then CEA Arvind Subramanian, Volume 2 provided the more descriptive review of the fiscal year, encompassing all the major sectors of the economy, while Volume 1 focussed on research and analysis about the challenges — both contemporary and long-term — facing the Indian economy. Thus, Volume 1 contained chapters on the GST, the investment-saving slowdown, and fiscal federalism and accountability, as well as on the challenges of long-term economic convergence, gender inequality, climate change and agriculture, delays in the appeals and judicial process, and science and technology.
  • As such, apart from providing a comprehensive snapshot of the various sectors of the economy, the Survey is also used as a sounding board for introducing new policy ideas and triggering fresh debates.
  • As the years have rolled by, successive CEAs have used every aspect of the Economic Survey to convey some key idea. For instance, the colour of the 2018 Survey’s cover — pink — was chosen “as a symbol of support for the growing movement to end violence against women, which spans continents”.
  • Given that the Indian economy is going through a rough patch, this year’s Economic Survey will be keenly watched for a new bunch of big ideas under the new CEA.

Improper planning, lack of monitoring defeating aim of green power, says CAG

 Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

 An audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on setting up small hydro projects on public-private partnership (PPP) basis said due to improper planning and inadequate monitoring, the objective of harnessing the green power with the help of private sector was largely defeated.

More in news:

  • The report on implementation of small hydro projects on PPP basis covering the period 2013-18 revealed that of the 121 sites identified by the water resources department, the feasibility study of 61 sites (installed capacity: 266.87 MW) had not been completed at the time of identification of sites and 27 sites (installed capacity:78.65 MW) were dropped being financially non-feasible.
  • In respect of six selected commissioned projects, only one project was commissioned within the scheduled time and five projects were commissioned after delays ranging from 17 months to 63 months.
  • The CAG has recommended that the feasibility study in respect of listed projects be completed in a time-bound manner.
  • There is a need to focus on the issues at hand and work out a solution to take the project forward or short-close the same if a feasible solution is possible.

SCR constructs longest electrified tunnel

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

 The South Central Railway (SCR) has added another feather to its cap by commissioning the longest electrified tunnel in Indian Railways.

  • The tunnel, measuring 6.6 km, is situated between Cherlopalli and Rapuru stations and is part of the 113-km new railway line completed recently between Obulavaripalli– Venkatachalam–Krishnapatnam Port.
  • Two freight trains have been run successfully on the electrified railway line a few days ago, thereby opening up viable rail connectivity between Krishnapatnam Port and its hinterland for goods train services.
  • The tunnel would reduce the distance between Krishnapatnam Port and the hinterland areas by 60 km.
  • At present, the average travel time taken by goods train from Krishnapatnam Port to Obulavaripali is 10 hours. With the commissioning of the new line, it would be reduced to five hours, the general manager said
  • The electrified tunnel has been constructed in the shape of a horse shoe on the New Australian Tunnelling Method, at a cost of ₹460 crore. The height of the tunnel (rail level to roof) is 6.5 metres and the minimum height of the contact wire maintained at 5.2 metres.
  • The new line would facilitate direct connectivity between South Coast and West Coast Railway and improve freight revenue of the zone.

First ever investors’ summit in J&K

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

Jammu and Kashmir will host its first-ever investor summit in September-October of this year in Srinagar — with a chapter in Jammu — to attract investment and counter perceptions about the State.

More in news:

  • Government officials said they are expecting participation from at least eight countries besides the rest of India. The State is presently under President’s Rule, which was extended by another six months last week after a vote in Parliament.
  • The investors summit, it is hoped, will change such perceptions about the State, which ranks third in the number of people holding government jobs due to a lack of other avenues.
  • Another sticking point is land. Laws governing ownership of land do not allow non-State subjects (who are not permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir) to purchase land or immoveable property in the State.
  • However, the Land Grants Bill, passed by the government headed by late Shaikh Abdullah in 1978, allows the government to lease out land to outsiders for 99 years. The State government can designate lands as industrial and offer long term leases, but a suggestion that land outside of industrial parks could be given out on lease has met with stiff resistance from various quarters of civil society. The proposal was sent for a review by the BJP-PDP government.

NASA tests launch-abort system for moon mission

Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology

 NASA carried out a successful test on Tuesday of a launch-abort system for the Orion capsule designed to take U.S. astronauts to the Moon.

More in news:

  • The three-minute exercise at Cape Canaveral in Florida aimed to test in almost real-life conditions the evacuation of astronauts from the capsule in the event of an explosion or rocket booster failure.
  • In the test, an unmanned Orion capsule was launched by a mini-rocket — a repurposed first stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Fifty-five seconds after the launch, at an altitude of 9,500 m, a rocket-powered tower on top of the crew module ignited its engines to quickly pull the Orion away from a hypothetical rocket experiencing problems.
  • In just 15 seconds, the capsule gained two miles of altitude. Then the tower reoriented the capsule to prepare it for descent and disengagement from the tower.
  • In real-life conditions, parachutes would open to ease the manned capsule’s fall toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Editorial section:

 Hurdles, ideas and silver linings

The primacy of the elected

Mumbai marooned

A scheme for farmers that has not reached most farmers

Not a bloodless option for India

Power play




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