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14 February, 2020

20 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II Publish details of tainted candidates: SC to parties
USTR takes India off developing country list International Relations
Finance Commission to set up a new panel
Central Administrative Tribunal
GS-III Sovereign Credit Rating Economic Issues
Future of Earth, 2020 report
Energy Neutral railway station
GS-II :
Publish details of tainted candidates: SC to parties

Syllabus subtopic: Salient Features of the Representation of People’s Act.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the SC directions and its significance; about criminalization of politics

 

Context: Supreme Court in its judgement handed down a series of directions aimed at checking the criminalization of politics.

 

Why?

  • The apex court noted that there has been an alarming increase in the number of candidates with criminal records entering politics.

 

  • In 2004, 24% of members of Parliament (MPs) had criminal cases pending against them. In 2009, that went up to 30%, in 2014 to 34%, and in 2019 as many as 43% of MPs had criminal cases pending against them.

 

What was the case about?

The court was passing orders on a contempt petition that raised the issue of criminalization of politics claiming that directions given by the court in a 2018 order on disclosure of criminal antecedents by candidates are not being followed.

 

 

Details of the SC judgement

  • The court ruled that it shall be mandatory for political parties during central and state elections to put out detailed information about candidates with criminal cases pending against them, including the nature of the offences.

 

  • Parties must also list the reasons for selecting such candidates and state why others without criminal antecedents were not selected.

 

  • The reasons as to selection shall be with reference to the qualifications, achievements, and merit of the candidate concerned, and not mere ‘winnability’ at the polls.

 

  • The information should be published in one local vernacular newspaper, a national newspaper, and on the official social media platforms of the political party, including Facebook and Twitter.

 

  • These details are to be published within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate.

 

  • The political party concerned shall then submit a report of compliance with these directions with the Election Commission within 72 hours of the selection of the said candidate. If a political party fails to submit such compliance report with the Election Commission, the Election Commission shall bring such non-compliance by the political party concerned to the notice of the Supreme Court as being in contempt of this SC’s orders.

 

 

Likely implications of these directions

The directions are likely to have a key political fallout given that the two biggest and politically crucial states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, go to polls over the next two years.

 

Conclusion

  • The order is a wake-up call for political parties as these decisions should have been taken by the parties on their own without waiting for the apex court to spell out the steps that political parties should be taking.

 

  • It strengthens the electoral democratic process by enabling voters to make a choice keeping all factors in mind.

     

  • Political parties have welcomed the step, but question if the Supreme Court order infringes on the powers of the elected representatives.

 

  • The real problem is that Supreme Court has only ordered political parties to give information on their website, but does not say that the direction is binding. Political parties can still choose to nominate people with criminal cases against them.
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GS-II : International Relations
USTR takes India off developing country list

Syllabus subtopic: Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the USTR move: criteria and its implications; about CVD and de minimis standard

 

News: The U.S. government has changed an administrative rule making it easier for it to impose countervailing duties (CVDs) on goods from India and certain other countries.

 

Background

  • To harmonise U.S. law with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement, the USTR had, in 1998, come up with lists of countries classified as per their level of development. These lists were used to determine whether they were potentially subject to U.S. countervailing duties (CVD). The 1998 rule is now “obsolete” as per the USTR notice.

 

  • U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly complained about the WTO’s classification of developing countries. On July 26, 2019, he had issued a memorandum to the USTR titled, ‘Reforming Developing-Country Status in the World Trade Organization’. In it, Mr. Trump had asked the USTR to, among other things, “no longer treat as a developing country for the purposes of the WTO any WTO Member that in the USTR’s judgment is improperly declaring itself a developing country,” if the WTO had not changed its approach to flexibilities associated with developing country status within ninety days of the memorandum being issued.

 

 

What are countervailing duties (CVD)?

  1. Duties that are imposed in order to counter the negative impact of import subsidies to protect domestic producers are called countervailing duties.

 

  1. Description: In cases foreign producers attempt to subsidize the goods being exported by them so that it causes domestic production to suffer because of a shift in domestic demand towards cheaper imported goods, the government makes mandatory the payment of a countervailing duty on the import of such goods to the domestic economy.

 

  1. This raises the price of these goods leading to domestic goods again being equally competitive and attractive. Thus, domestic businesses are cushioned. These duties can be imposed under the specifications given by the WTO (World Trade Organization) after the investigation finds that exporters are engaged in dumping. These are also known as anti-dumping duties.

 

About the USTR move

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has published a notice, amending lists of developing and least-developed countries that are eligible for preferential treatment with respect to CVD investigations.

 

What does that mean?

  • Countries not given special consideration have lower levels of protection against a CVD investigation.

 

  • A CVD investigation must be terminated if the offending subsidy is de minimis (too small to warrant concern) or if import volumes are negligible. The de minimis standard is usually a subsidy of 1% or less ad valorem and 2 percent for special cases. The de minimis thresholds and import volume allowance are more relaxed for developing and least-developed countries.

(Ad valorem tax means levying of tax or customs duties proportionate to the estimated value of the goods or transaction concerned.)

 

  • If a country’s goods constitute less than 3% of all imports of that good into the U.S., it meets the ‘negligible import volumes’ standard. For special cases it is 4%. Imports do not meet the standard, if, individual volumes are less than 3% (special cases: 4%) but the aggregate volume of imports into the U.S. is 7% of all such goods.

 

  • India was, until February 10, on the developing country list and therefore eligible for these more relaxed standards. It has now been taken off of that list.

 

  • The new lists consist of 36 developing countries and 44 least developed countries.

 

Eligibility Criteria for the de minimis standard

The USTR used the following criteria to determine whether a country was eligible for the 2% de minimis standard:

  1. Per capita Gross National Income or GNI
  2. share of world trade
  3. other factors such as Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) membership or application for membership, EU membership, and Group of Twenty (G20) membership.

 

Why was India taken off the list?

  • India, along with Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were taken off the list since they each have at least a 0.5% share of the global trade, despite having less than $12,375 GNI (the World Bank threshold separating high income countries from others).

 

  • India was taken off the list also because — like Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa — it is part of the G20. “Given the global economic significance of the G20, and the collective economic weight of its membership (which accounts for large shares of global economic output and trade), G20 membership indicates that a country is developed,” the USTR notice said.

 

Implications

The move has cast a shadow on India being able to restore preferential benefits under the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) as part of its trade talks with the US, as only developing countries are eligible for it.

 

Way forward

Mr. Trump is due to visit India on February 24 and 25 and the U.S. and India are trying to finalise a trade package before the U.S. President’s arrival. According to American officials, the timing of the USTR announcement is not linked to the visit, that is, the timing is mostly coincidental and mostly related to dynamics at the WTO on developing country treatment.

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GS-II :
Finance Commission to set up a new panel

Syllabus subtopic: Appointment to various Constitutional Posts, Powers, Functions and Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the new panel to be set up and their mandate; about FFC; CAG; FRBM act

 

News: The Fifteenth Finance Commission (FFC) will soon set up a panel to address issues related to fiscal policy for both the Centre and the States, and present a road map for the same.

 

About the new fiscal panel/committee

  • It will be a broad-based panel which will address some of the issues on fiscal policy, particularly in relation to the debt and the deficit of the States as well as the Central government.

 

  • The panel will be headed by FFC Chairman and have representation from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the Reserve Bank of India, the Ministry of Finance, the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) panel and some of the States.

 

  • The principal terms of reference (ToR) of the fiscal commitee will enhance the ability of the Finance Commission to address its ToR relating to giving a consolidated fiscal debt road map for the general government.

 

Panel on Defence & Internal security

  • The Commission had also constituted a group on defence and internal security, whose mandate will be ‘to examine whether a separate mechanism for funding of defence and internal security ought to be set up, and if so, how such a mechanism could be operationalised.’

 

  • This group will be chaired by FFC Chairman with A.N. Jha, Member, Fifteenth Finance Commission as well as Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Secretary (Expenditure), Ministry of Finance as members.

 

Does India require a new legal framework for fiscal consolidation?

According to the FFC, there wasn’t a need for a new legal framework as the FRBM already gives a robust legal framework, except for the fact the States need to align their own FRBM with the new FRBM enacted by the Union Government with the amendments to the earlier one in 2018. Also, there is a need to ensure there is strict compliance on the issues of off-Budget borrowing, contingent liabilities, etc

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GS-II :
Central Administrative Tribunal

Syllabus subtopic: Appointment to various Constitutional Posts, Powers, Functions and Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about Administrative tribunal: CAT and SATs; composition and mandate

 

News: A senior IPS officer of Andhra Pradesh cadre moved the Central Administrative Tribunal in Hyderabad challenging the suspension order issued by AP government.

 

Administrative Tribunals in India

  • The original Constitution did not contain provisions with respect to tribunals. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 added a new Part XIV-A to the Constitution. This part is entitled as ‘Tribunals’ and consists of only two Articles:
  1. Article 323 A dealing with administrative tribunals, and
  2. Article 323 B dealing with tribunals for other matters.

 

  • Article 323 A empowers the Parliament to provide for the establishment of administrative tribunals for the adjudication of disputes relating to recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public services of the Centre, the states, local bodies, public corporations and other public authorities.

 

  • In other words, Article 323 A enables the Parliament to take out the adjudication of disputes relating to service matters from the civil courts and the high courts and place it before the administrative tribunals.

 

 

  • In pursuance of Article 323 A, the Parliament has passed the Administrative Tribunals Act in 1985. The act authorises the Central government to establish one Central administrative tribunal and the state administrative tribunals. This act opened a new chapter in the sphere of providing speedy and inexpensive justice to the aggrieved public servants.

 

Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) -- For Union services including All India Services

The CAT exercises jurisdiction over all service matters concerning the following:

  1. a member of any All-India Service
  2. a person appointed to any civil service of the Union or any civil post under the union
  3. a civilian appointed to any defence services or a post connected with defence

However, the members of the defence forces, officers, staff of the Supreme Court and the secretarial staff of the Parliament are not covered under the jurisdiction of CAT.

 

Benches: There are 17 Benches and 21 Circuit Benches in the Central Administrative Tribunal all over India. In addition, the Central Administrative Tribunal, Principal Bench is dealing with the matters of Govt. of National Capital Territory of Delhi.

 

State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) -- For states services including state PSC

 

Following categories of employees are exempted from purview of Administrative tribunal:

  1. Employees of SC & HC
  2. Armed force professionals
  3. Rajya Sabha & Lok Sabha members

 

Important points

  • SC may grant a writ of certiorari if a tribunal’s decision infringes an FR

 

  • Chairman & members of CAT & SAT are appointed by President after consultation with CJI

 

  • Chairman & Vice Chairman retire at the age of 65 and other members retire at the age of 62

 

  • Chairman must be a HC judge (Serving/Retired) or VC of tribunal for atleast 2 years

 

  • Members of administrative tribunals can be Judges of HC & or from civil services

 

Tribunal for other Services (323B)

For jurisdiction of disputes relating to following matters

  1. Taxation
  2. Foreign exchange (export & import)
  3. Land reforms
  4. Industrial & labour disputes
  5. Ceiling on urban property
  6. Election to parliament or state legislature
  7. Rent & Tenancy Issues
  8. Production, procurement & distribution of food stuff
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GS-III : Economic Issues
Sovereign Credit Rating

Syllabus subtopic: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the sovereign credit ratings and their significance

 

News: Global ratings agency Standard and Poor’s affirmed India’s sovereign rating at ‘BBB-’ with stable outlook.

 

Reason

  • According to S&P, despite a notable deceleration in India’s economy in recent quarters, its structural growth outperformance remains intact. Real GDP growth is therefore likely to gradually recover toward longer-term trend rates over the next two to three years.

 

  • It expects the economic growth rate to improve to 6 per cent during 2020-21, 7 per cent in the next fiscal and 7.4 per cent thereafter.

 

Suggestions/warnings

  • Supportive monetary, fiscal, and cyclical factors should support economic recovery, with real GDP growth averaging 7.1 per cent in fiscals 2020-2024.

 

  • The agency, however pointed out that India’s fiscal position remains precarious, with elevated fiscal deficits and net government indebtedness.

 

What does BBB rating mean?

‘BBB’ rating refers to adequate capacity of the rated entity to meet its financial commitments.

 

What Is a Sovereign Credit Rating?

  1. A sovereign credit rating is an independent assessment of the creditworthiness of a country or sovereign entity.

 

  1. Sovereign credit ratings can give investors insights into the level of risk associated with investing in the debt of a particular country, including any political risk.

 

  1. At the request of the country, a credit rating agency will evaluate its economic and political environment to assign it a rating.

 

  1. Obtaining a good sovereign credit rating is usually essential for developing countries that want access to funding in international bond markets.

 

Credit Rating Agencies

The global credit rating industry is highly concentrated, with three agenciesMoody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch—controlling nearly the entire market. Together, they provide a much-needed service for both borrowers and lenders, as well as to lenders.

 

  • Standard & Poor's gives a BBB- or higher rating to countries it considers investment grade, and grades of BB+ or lower are deemed to be speculative or "junk" grade.

 

  • Moody’s considers a Baa3 or higher rating to be of investment grade, and a rating of Ba1 and below is speculative.
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GS-III :
Future of Earth, 2020 report

Syllabus subtopic: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the report and its key highlights

 

News: “The Future of Earth, 2020” report was released in Bengaluru by the South Asia Future Earth Regional Office, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, and the Indian Institute of Science.

 

About the report

  • As many as 222 leading scientists from 52 countries conducted the survey by Future Earth, an international sustainability research network. The Bengaluru launch was among similar parallel ones across other parts of the world scheduled between February 13 and 21.

 

  • The report was prepared with the aim of reducing carbon footprint and halting global warming below 2 degree Celsius by 2050.

 

 

Key highlights of the report

  1. Global  risks

It has listed five global risks that have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that may cascade to create global systemic crisis.

These 5 global risks are:

  1. failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation;
  2. extreme weather events;
  3. major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse;
  4. food crises; and
  5. water crises,

 

How are these global risks interrelated?

  • Extreme heat waves can accelerate global warming by releasing large amounts of stored carbon from affected ecosystems, and at the same time intensify water crises and/ or food scarcity. The loss of biodiversity also weakens the capacity of natural and agricultural systems to cope with climate extremes, increasing our vulnerability to food crises.

 

  1. Climate change
  • Over the last 18 months, major assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the US National Climate Assessment, and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, have all argued that time is running out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

  • This has inspired declarations of a climate crisis or climate emergency by the leaders of more than 700 cities, States and governments. Yet, during 2019, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached more than 415 ppm, and the five years from 2014 to 2018 were the warmest recorded over land and ocean since 1880.

 

  1. Populism
  • Right-wing populism, a breed of politics that exploits people’s fears during times of economic decline and growing inequality, and that focuses on nationalist tendencies to clamp down on borders and reject immigrants, is on the rise around the world. This often leads to a denial of climate change facts or impacts.

 

  1. Biodiversity
  • Humans have now “significantly altered” 75% of Earth’s land area; about a quarter of species in assessed plant and animal groups are threatened.

 

  • In 2018, the world’s last male northern white rhino died in his Kenyan enclosure, while the Brazillian blue parrot, Spix’s Macaw, was declared extinct in the wild.

 

  • Reversing the trends of loss of life on Earth will require some new ways of thinking about conservation.

 

  1. Food crisis

Strains on food production are expected to increase, as a result of various forces including climate change, biodiversity loss, and a global population on the rise.

 

  1. False news

 

  • False news travels six times faster and can reach up to 100 times more people.

 

  • The flow of information in the world is changing, as today, around half of the planet’s 7.6 billion people are online, deeply influenced by social media, search engines and e-commerce algorithms.

 

  • These digital platforms tend to favour the spread of information designed to engage with emotion over reason, can cause the propagation of “fake news”, and can lead to social harms like an erosion of trust in vaccines.

 

Efforts of India in environment education

The National Education Policy (NEP) will address the question of environmental health and education at the school level. Children in the last four years of secondary education will have a reasonable grounding to be sensitive towards the environment. Without it no government rules and policies can be helpful.

 

Note: to read about NEP, 2019 in detail, clock on the link below:

https://prsindia.org/report-summaries/draft-national-education-policy-2019

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GS-III :
Energy Neutral railway station

Syllabus subtopic: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

 

Prelims and Mains focus: about the concept and its benefits; about SPV cells; India’s efforts at tapping solar energy

 

News: South Central Railway (SCR) has become the first on Indian Railways to come up with the concept of ‘Energy Neutral’ railway stations.

 

What does it mean?

The SCR is now capable of meeting 100% energy requirements by tapping natural solar power through Solar Photo Voltaic (SPV) panels commissioned on about13 station buildings. The total capacity of solar panels installed at the 13 ‘energy neutral’ stations is 99 kWp with the cost incurred, being around Rs.50 lakh.

 

What are the benefits?

  • The anticipated energy generation from these stations comes to around 1.3 lakh units annually and it is expected that solar power will also lead to savings of Rs.13 lakh each year.

 

  • In addition, the generation of clean solar energy will help reduce carbon footprints to the tune of 1,170 tonnes per annum.

 

  • All the power needs of 13 stations like lighting, fans, pumps and other electrical appliances are met through the solar energy generated and this is bringing down the net traditional energy consumption at these stations to zero.

 

About the Energy neutral station concept

  • This eco-friendly concept is based on the principle of developing railway station buildings with total solar power tapping capabilities commensurate to exact load requirements of those particular stations.

 

  • This is done by installation of SPV panels on the rooftops which are integrated with the on-grid or off-grid solar energy plants to derive power supply to the entire station.
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