Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 12 MARCH 2019

Current Affairs for IAS Exams - 12 MARCH 2019


Supreme court might refer plea challenging reservation law to constitutional bench

  •  The Supreme Court on Monday decided to consider the question of whether the challenge to the 10% economic reservation law should be heard by a Constitution Bench. A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India RanjanGogoi, scheduled the hearing for March 28.
  •  The court, however, refused to pass any interim order to stay or hamper the implementation of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act that provides for 10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to the economically backward in the unreserved category.
  •  The Act amends Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution, adding clauses empowering the government to provide reservation on the basis of economic backwardness.
  •  The petitions, mainly one filed by activist TehseenPoonawala, said the Act violated the basic features of the Constitution. The petitioners argued that the 50% ceiling was “engrafted as a part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution’s equality code” by the court.
  •  The petition also contended that the term ‘economically weaker sections’ remained undefined in the Act, along with the “ambiguous” term of ‘State’. The question of reference came up even as the Centre sought more time to file its counter.
  •  “While the impugned amendment attempts to overcome the applicability of Articles 19(1)(g) and 29(2), it remains silent on Article 14, which protects the citizens from manifestly arbitrary State action,” the petition said.

India becomes world’s second largest arms importer

  •  India was the world’s second largest arms importer from 2014-18, ceding the long-held tag as largest importer to Saudi Arabia, which accounted for 12% of the total imports during the period.
  •  “India was the world’s second largest importer of major arms in 2014–18 and accounted for 9.5% of the global total,” according to the latest report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on Monday.
  •  However, Indian imports decreased by 24% between 2009-13 and 2014-18, partly due to delays in deliveries of arms produced under licence from foreign suppliers, such as combat aircraft ordered from Russia in 2001 and submarines ordered from France in 2008, the report stated.
  •  Pakistan stood at the 11th position accounting for 2.7% of all global imports. Its biggest source was China, from which 70% of arms were sourced, followed by the U.S. at 8.9% and, interestingly, Russia at 6%.
  •  China, which has emerged as a major arms exporter, has increased its share by 2.7% for 2014-18 compared to 2009-13. Its biggest customers are Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  •  As Indian imports reduced, the impact was on Russian exports of major arms, which decreased by 17% between 2009-13 and 2014-18. The report said this was partly due to “general reductions in Indian and Venezuelan arms imports”, which have been among the main recipients of Russian arms exports in previous years.


CRISIL report says uncertain govt.policies hit solar capacity addition

  •  Inconsistent government actions have cast a shadow over developer sentiment in the solar sector and slowed down capacity addition momentum, Crisil said in a report. This will result in the government achieving only 60% of its 100 GW target by 2022, it added.
  •  The report said the two main factors increasing cost pressures for the solar sector included the imposition of the safeguard duty on solar component imports and the uncertainty over the Goods and Services Tax treatment of the sector.
  •  “Clarification on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) procedures and its implementation for solar was not forthcoming for over a year, impacting commissioning schedules and project costs across developers,” the report said.
  •  The report said that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy had issued a clarification on the issue, saying that entirely solar projects would be taxable at 5%, but it also said that if an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract included both supply and services, it would be adjudged on a case-to-case basis.
  •  “This created further concern, as most projects were set up on an EPC basis, whether in-house or outsourced,” the report said. “The issue lacked clarity for over a year, until the GST Council in December 2018 clarified with regardto EPC contracts by setting a ratio of 70:30 of the entire value of the EPC contract, where 70% will be taxed at 5%, and 30% at 18%, to factor in both the supply and service component.”
  •  However, this clarification has meant an increased tax incidence, of about 8-9%, which is higher than the 5% expected by the industry, leading to an increase in final capital costs.

Survey reports majority workplaces as male-dominated

  •  For 97% of working women, life has changed post migration, said a survey by ICICI Lombard on the physical and mental health of working women through their career span.
  •  The study surveyed working women in the age group 22-55 years, covering aspects like migration for work, resuming work post maternity and women at work facing menopause. The objective of the survey was to understand issues faced by working women at the workplace.
  •  While gender equality at the workplace has become a byword in the corporate sector, the survey has brought forth the fact that 53% of the working women believe their workplaces are still male-dominated.
  •  Another interesting facet of the survey was in that 62% of the respondents believed that recognition at par with male counterparts notwithstanding, there is a gap when it comes to remuneration. This was found to be more prevalent in the manufacturing and financial sectors.
  •  Workplace abuse was an aspect faced more by older women (45-55 years), with a majority of them reporting this to HR (43%), but a significant lot (32%) also quitting on account of this.
  •  Migration for work has proved to be a positive change for 97% of working women, enhancing self-confidence and financial independence. Cultural shock, though, is a major challenge.
  •  Respondents to the survey relating to menopause revealed that depression is a common emotion impacting 89% of working women, leading 42% of them to take leave once a month.

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India holds crucial discussions on terror with four countries

  •  India on Monday held crucial discussions with Saudi Arabia, United States, Turkey and the UAE on countering Pakistan-based terror groups, the Ministry of External Affairs said.
  •  In a telephone conversation with President RecepTayyipErdogan of Turkey, Prime Minister NarendraModi reiterated India’s position that terrorism “remains one of the gravest threats to global peace and security”.
  •  Mr Modi also held telephone talks with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and thanked him for the support from his side for India’s appearance as a “Guest of Honour” at the recent ministerial of the OIC where India asked for a united front against terrorism.
  •  It was the second such communication in two weeks as the Crown Prince had earlier called for de-escalation of tension between India and Pakistan.
  •  Prime Minister Modi also had a personal meeting with the visiting Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubeir on Monday evening. “Prime Minister thanked the leadership of Saudi Arabia for expressing full solidarity with India in the fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
  •  It was agreed that Saudi Arabia and India should work together for irreversible, verifiable and credible steps against all terrorists without any discrimination,” a press statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said after the deputy minister completed his hours-long visit here.

China not agreeing to listMasoodazhar in UN1267 committee

  •  China on Monday gave no indication that it is likely to change its stand on MasoodAzhar in the UN committee that meets on Wednesday to vote on designating head of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group as an international terrorist.
  •  In response to a question on Beijing’s position in the upcoming March 13 meeting of the UN Security Council’s 1267 committee, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang stuck to the position that the security council, as the “main body” of the UN system does not take its decisions superficially. He also signalled that that the die had not been cast on Azhar’s designation just yet.
  •  China has on three occasions placed a “technical hold” on Azhar’s designation as a global terrorist in the 1267 committee. Yet another attempt on the JeM chief’s designation, led by the United States, France and Britain, has begun following the February 14 Pulwama attack. Mr. Lu hinted that China favoured detailed deliberations on the issue of designation. “Only decisions made through responsible and serious discussions are the way to solve problems sustainably,” he observed.


UN Environment assemblyfocusses on plastic issue

  •  Countries from around the world set their sights Monday on a pivotal deal to curb plastic waste, a source of long-term pollution and worsening contamination of the ocean’s food chain
  •  Thousands of delegates, business leaders and campaigners are in Nairobi for the five-day UN Environment Assembly, the top annual forum on the planet’s environmental crisis.
  •  The UN wants individual countries to sign up to “significantly” reduce plastic production, including a phasing out of single-use plastics by 2030 — a goal inspired by the 2015 Paris Agreement on voluntary reductions of carbon emissions.
  •  A landmark report due to be out this week is expected to ram home the warning of the threat to ecosystems from rampant plastic and chemical waste.
  •  The world currently produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastics annually, and there are at least five trillion plastic pieces floating in our oceans. Microplastics have been found in the deepest sea trenches and high up the earth’s tallest peaks, and plastic consumption is growing year-on-year.
  •  “Plastic is a very good material, it’s durable, flexible and light,” Mr.Kiisler said. “This means we should make the best out of it for as long as possible instead of disposing of it.”
  •  The Nairobi meeting comes against the backdrop of series of UN reports outlining in stark terms the damage mankind is doing to the planet, much of it due to reckless consumption.
  •  The One Planet Summit on Thursday will bring together heads of State, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta to lend political clout to the process.


SAFF women’s championship kicks off in Nepal

  •  The fifth South Asian Football Federation, SAFF, Women's Championship kicks off in Biratnagar, Nepal today. Defending champion India has been drawn in Group B in the six-team competition alongside Maldives and Sri Lanka, while host Nepal has been kept in Group A with Bangladesh and Bhutan.
  •  The opening match will be played between Nepal and Bhutan this afternoon. Unbeaten in 19 matches from the last four editions, India will take on Maldives tomorrow. Indian coach Maymol Rocky has expressed confidence in her side.

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