UPSC Civil Services Daily Current Affairs 25th March 2022
Topics for the day:
- Steps in to tackle Russian trade hurdles
- NIA probe sought into terror funding case
- UGC’s Common Entrance Test for Undergrad Admissions.
- Dhami govt. to form panel on Uniform Civil Code
- FCRA registration of NGOs extended
- India to be TB-free by 2025
- World Air Quality Report 2021
Govt. steps in to tackle Russian trade hurdles
- The government has convened a multi-Ministerial group to look into how to overcome challenges in trade with Russia, including managing payments for exporters and importers, External Affairs Minister said in Parliament, in comments that indicate a possible revival of “rupee-rouble trade” in the wake of economic sanctions against Russian banks and entities by more than 40 U.S. and European allies.
- Answering queries during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha on India’s stand on Russia and Ukraine, including some that raised concerns over India’s abstentions at the United Nations and the impact of Indian policy on India’s trade and ties with the U.S., Mr. Jai Shankar said that India’s position is “for peace” and that foreign policy decisions are made in “Indian national interest”.
- The EA minister held, “Indian foreign policy decisions are made in Indian national interest and we are guided by our thinking, our views and our interests.”
- The comments by the Minister come even as a number of countries in the sanctions regime against Russia have sent delegations to New Delhi to try and shift India’s position on votes at the United Nations, with some seeking to limit Indian purchases of Russian oil reportedly being offered at discounted prices.
What is the question hour ?
Definition: The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is slotted for the Question Hour.
- During this one hour, Members of Parliament (MPs) ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
- The questions can also be asked to the private members (MPs who are not ministers).
Regulation: It is regulated according to parliamentary rules.
- The presiding officers of the both Houses (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha) are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.
Kinds of Questions:
There are three types of questions asked.
- Starred question (distinguished by an asterisk)- this requires an oral answer and hence supplementary questions can follow.
- Unstarred question– this requires a written answer and hence, supplementary questions cannot follow.
- Short notice question is one that is asked by giving a notice of less than ten days. It is answered orally.
- Frequency: Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session.
- But there are two days when an exception is made.
- When the President addresses MPs from both Houses. The President’s speech takes place at the beginning of a new Lok Sabha and on the first day of a new Parliament year.
- On the day the Finance Minister presents the Budget.
NIA probe sought into terror funding case
- Claiming to be in possession of sensitive report prepared by Mumbai Police on an alleged terror fund racket, Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly demanded the case of a professional gang which has an involvement of over 300 members involved in narcotics, sex trafficking, terror funding with possible links to ISIS be handed to the National investigative agency for investigation.
What is the NIA ?
- It is the Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency. It is empowered to deal with terror related crimes across states without special permission from the states.
- It was established under the National Investigation Agency Act 2008 and works under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- It is the central agency to investigate and prosecute offences:
- affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India, security of State, friendly relations with foreign States.
- against atomic and nuclear facilities.
- smuggling in High-Quality Counterfeit Indian Currency.
- A State Government may request the Central Government to hand over the investigation of a case to the NIA, provided the case has been registered for the offences as contained in the schedule to the NIA Act.
- The Central Government can also order the NIA to take over the investigation of any scheduled offense anywhere in India.
- Officers of the NIA are drawn from the Indian Police Service and Indian Revenue Service.
Special NIA Courts:
- Various Special Courts have been notified by the Central Government of India. Any question as to the jurisdiction of these courts is decided by the Central Government.
- These are presided over by a judge appointed by the Central Government on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of the High Court with jurisdiction in that region.
- Supreme Court of India has also been empowered to transfer the cases from one special court to any other special court within or outside the state.
- The NIA Special Courts are empowered with all powers of the court of sessions under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for trial of any offense.
- An appeal from any judgement, sentence or order, of a Special Court lies to the High Court both on facts and on law.
- State Governments have also been empowered to appoint one or more such special courts in their states.
UGC’s Common Entrance Test for Undergrad Admissions
- The University Grants Commission (UGC) has announced that admission into undergraduate courses in all centrally-funded universities will henceforth be solely on the basis of a Common University Entrance Test (CUET).
What does this mean for the students and the universities?
- All 45 central universities will have to admit students on the basis of their scores on the test.
- Class 12 Board Exam marks will no longer be considered.
What is CUET?
- The CUET will be a computerised test to be conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).
- Following the exam, the NTA will prepare a merit list on the basis of which these universities will admit students.
- This entrance test is compulsory for all the central universities and may also be adopted by the state/private/deemed to be universities.
- The entrance exam will be offered in 13 languages.
- International students are exempted from CUET; their admissions will be carried out on the existing supernumerary basis.
Importance of the CUET exam
- To level the playing field for aspirants as different examination boards in the country may mark students differently (Some Boards are more generous than others in marking and this gives their students an unfair advantage over others).
- It will save students from the “stress of impossibly high cut-offs for admission”. Last year, eight DU colleges had set cut-offs at 100% marks for 11 courses.
- It is expected to reduce financial burden on parents and students, as candidates will only have to write one exam.
- National Testing Agency is responsible for conducting competitive entrance exams like NEET, JEE, CTET, GATE, GPAT, GMAT, CAT, UGC NET, etc.
- National Testing Agency (NTA) was established as a Society registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860.
- It is an autonomous and self-sustained testing organization to conduct entrance examinations for admission/fellowship in higher educational institutions.
Governance of the NTA :
- NTA is chaired by an eminent educationist appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
- The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will be the Director-General to be appointed by the Government.
- There will be a Board of Governors comprising members from user institutions.
Significance of NTA
- Establishment of a specialized testing body like NTA has relieved the agencies such as CBSE, AICTE of their responsibilities of conducting Entrance examinations.
- Examinations are conducted by NTA in the online mode at least twice a year, in order to give enough opportunities to candidates and to bring out the best in them.
- In order to increase the accessibility and meet the requirements of the rural students, it will locate centers at sub-district and district level.
Functions of NTA :
- To identify partner institutions with adequate infrastructure from the existing schools and higher education institutions which would facilitate the conduct of online examinations without adversely impacting their academic routine.
- To create a question bank for all subjects using modern techniques.
- To establish a strong R&D culture as well as a pool of experts in different aspects of testing.
- To provide training and advisory services to the institutions in India.
- To collaborate with international organizations like ETS (Educational Testing Services).
- To undertake any other examination that is entrusted to it by the Ministries/Departments of Government of India/State Governments.
- To undertake the reforms and training of school boards as well as other bodies where the testing standards should be comparable with the entrance examinations.
Dhami govt. to form panel on Uniform Civil Code
- A day after being sworn-in, the Uttarakhand Cabinet led by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Thursday decided to form a committee of experts on the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code in the State.
More about the uniform civil code :
- The Constitution in Article 44 requires the State to strive to secure for its citizens a Uniform Civil Code(UCC) throughout India, but till date, no action has been taken in this regard
- A Uniform Civil Code seeks to provide one common law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc.
- Currently only the Muslim personal laws are still primarily unmodified and traditional in their content and approach. While the other major religious personal laws have been codified.
Need of Uniform Civil Code :
- Ensuring equality: Presently, in India, different communities are governed by different Personal laws like Hindu Marriage Act 1955, Hindu Succession Act 1956, Anand marriage act etc.
- Needed for national integration: Uniform Civil Code will separate religion from social relations and personal laws, ensuring equality and thus harmony in the society
- Gender Justice: UCC will promote gender justice by removing the inbuilt discriminatory provisions of personal laws. ex.Under the Hindu law, the Mitakshara branch of law denied to a Hindu daughter a right by birth in the joint family property.
- Freedom of Choice: A religion neutral personal law would encourage protection of couples in case of inter-caste and inter-religious marriages
Problems of Uniform civil code :
- Articles 371 (A-I) and the sixth schedule of the constitution of India provides certain protections to the states of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Goa etc with respect to family law. Hence this would be a contradiction.
- Plurality and diversity: It has been argued that UCC threatens a pluralistic society like India, where people have confidence in their respective religious beliefs. The Law Commission of India opined that the Uniform Civil Code is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage” in the country.
- Freedom of religion gets into conflict with the right to equality.
- In the name of uniformity, the minorities fear that the culture of the majority is being imposed over them.
Way forward :
- The social transformation from diverse civil code to uniformity shall be gradual and cannot happen in a day. Therefore, the government must adopt a “Piecemeal” approach. By taking up issues one by one as and when the need arises. Ex.Shayara bano case to criminalise triple talaq.
- Constitution espouses the cause of Uniform civil code in its Article 44, it shouldn’t be misconstrued to be a “common law” hence communities must be governed by uniform principles of gender justice and human justice
FCRA registration of NGOs extended
- The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) extended the validity of FCRA [Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act] registration of NGOs till June 30, revising its previous extended deadline.
- An order by the MHA said that the validity of registration certificates of such entities whose renewal application is pending will stand extended till June 30 or till the date of disposal of renewal application, whichever is earlier.
- The order added that in case of refusal of the application for renewal of registration, the validity of the certificate shall be deemed to have expired on the date of refusal of the application and the association or the NGO shall not be eligible either to receive the foreign contribution or utilise the foreign contribution received.
- The order said that the FCRA entities whose five year validity period is expiring between April 1 and June 30 and the NGOs that have applied for renewal before the expiry of the registration will also stand extended till June 30 or till the date of disposal of renewal application, whichever is earlier.
What is the Foreigners Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)?
- It is an act of Parliament enacted in 1976 and amended in 2010.
- The objective is to regulate foreign donations and to ensure that such contributions do not adversely affect internal security.
- Coverage: It is applicable to all associations, groups, and NGOs which intend to receive foreign donations.
- It is mandatory for all such NGOs to register themselves under the FCRA. The registration is initially valid for five years.
- The registration can be renewed subsequently if they comply with all norms.
- Registered NGOs can receive foreign contributions for five purposes – social, educational, religious, economic, and cultural.
- They need to have a separate account listing the donations received from foreigners, getting it audited by a Chartered Accountant and submitting it to the Home Ministry, every year
- These people are debarred from receiving foreign contributions :
- A candidate contesting an election
- Cartoonist,Editor,publishers of a registered newspaper
- Government servants or employee of any corporation
- Member of any legislature
- Political parties
Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment), Act 2020 :
- Transfer of foreign contribution: Under the Act, foreign contribution cannot be transferred to any other person unless such person is also registered for that purpose.
- The amendment also forbids sub-granting by NGOs to smaller NGOs who work at the grassroots.
- Single FCRA account: The act states that foreign contributions must be received only in an FCRA account opened in the State Bank of India, New Delhi Branch.
- No funds other than the foreign contribution should be received or deposited in this account.
- Regulation: The Act states that a person may accept foreign contributions if :
- They have obtained a certificate of registration from the central government
- They have taken prior permission from the government to accept foreign contributions.
- Aadhaar usage: The act makes it compulsory for all trustees to register their Aadhaar card with the FCRA account.
- Reduction in use of foreign contribution for administrative purposes: The Act decreases administrative expenses through foreign funds by an organisation to 20% from 50% earlier.
India to be TB-free by 2025
Context and more on the news :
- A 19% increase was witnessed in 2021 from the previous year in TB patients notifications.
- The number of incident TB patients (new and relapse) notified during 2021 was 19,33,381 against the 16,28,161 in 2020, noted India TB Report 2022
- On World Tuberculosis Day, Health Minister reaffirmed the government’s commitment to making India tuberculosis free by 2025 and said this will be achieved by ensuring access to quality healthcare and advanced treatment.
- The report said despite the decline in TB notifications observed around the months corresponding to the two major COVID 19 waves, the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP) reclaimed these numbers.
- It said 18 States have committed to ending TB by 2025 by implementing State specific strategic plans and have devised a district specific strategic plan, which shall serve as a guiding tool for the programme managers.
- The government also released the National TB Prevalence Survey Report which was conducted from 2019 to 2021 to know the actual disease burden of TB.
- The reports said there has been an increase in the mortality rate due to all forms of TB between 2019 and 2020 by 11%.
More on Tuberculosis
- TB is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs.
- TB is spread from person to person through the air.
- When people with TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air.
- Cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
- TB is a treatable and curable disease.
- It is treated with a standard 6-month course of 4 antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer.
- Anti-TB medicines have been used for decades and strains that are resistant to 1 or more of the medicines have been documented
- Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a form of TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to isoniazid and rifampicin, the 2 most powerful, first-line anti-TB drugs. MDR-TB is treatable and curable by using second-line drugs.
- Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) is a more serious form of MDR-TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to the most effective second-line anti-TB drugs, often leaving patients without any further treatment options.
World Air Quality Report 2021
- The 2021 World Air Quality Report was released, the report presented an overview of the state of global air quality in 2021.
- Released by IQAir, a Swiss group that measures air quality levels based on the concentration of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5.
- Bangladesh was the most polluted country in the world in 2021.
- Bangladesh recorded an average 5 level of 76.9 micrograms per cubic metre in 2021 against the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended maximum permissible level of 5 micrograms per cubic metre.
- Earlier, in 2018, 2019 and 2020 also Bangladesh was found to be the most polluted country in the world.
- The data reveals that not a single country in the world managed to meet the WHO’s air quality standard in 2021.
- All over the world, 93 cities reported PM 2.5 levels at 10 times the recommended level.
- Among the cities, Dhaka was the second most polluted city in the world with a PM 2.5 level of 78.1 just below New Delhi which had a PM 2.5 level of 85.1 in 2021.
Performance of India:
- New Delhi continues to be the world’s most polluted capital city for the fourth consecutive year.
- As per the report, in 2021, India was home to 11 of the 15 most polluted cities in Central and also in South Asia.
- 35 Indian cities have been listed by the index under the worst air quality tag for 2021.
- Bhiwadi, Rajasthan topped this list and was followed Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.
UPSC Civil Services Daily Current Affairs 25th March 2022
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