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Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (13th August)

Dear aspirants, following are the links of various articles taken from various newspapers. Click the link to read further. To get notification, follow the blog. Thank you

1. Undoing a legacy of injustice

  • The Begging Act was passed in 1959 by the State of Bombay, and has continued to exist in as many as 20 States and two Union Territories
  • Begging Act criminalises begging.
  • It gives the police the power to arrest individuals without a warrant.
  • It gives magistrates the power to commit them to a “certified institution” (read: a detention centre) for up to three years on the commission of the first “offence”, and up to 10 years upon the second “offence”.
  • It strips the people of their privacy and dignity by compelling them to allow themselves to be fingerprinted.
  • The Act also authorises the detention of people “dependent” upon the “beggar” (read: family), and the separation of children over the age of five
  • Certified institutions have absolute power over detainees, including the power of punishment, and the power to exact “manual work”
  • Disobeying the rules of the institution can land an individual in jail.
  • From its first word to the last, the Begging Act reflects a vicious logic.There is the definition of “begging” which has a pointed reference to “singing, dancing, fortune telling, performing or offering any article for sale”.
  • This makes it clear that the purpose of the Act is not simply to criminalise the act of begging (as commonly understood), but to target groups and communities whose itinerant patterns of life do not fit within mainstream stereotypes of the sedentary, law-abiding citizen with a settled job.
  • The reference to “no visible means of subsistence and wandering about” punishes people for the crime of looking poor.
  • These vague definitions not only give unchecked power to the police to harass citizens but they also reveal the prejudices underlying the law.

Colonial Legacy

  • In 1871, the colonial regime passed the notorious Criminal Tribes Act. This law was based upon the racist British belief that in India there were entire groups and communities that were criminal by birth, nature, and occupation.
  • The Act unleashed a reign of terror, with its systems of surveillance, police reporting, the separation of families, detention camps, and forced labour.
  • More then six decades after independent India repealed the Act, the “denotified tribes” continue to suffer from stigma and systemic disadvantage.

Delhi HC strikes down the beggar act

  • Last week, in a remarkable, landmark and long overdue judgment, the Delhi High Court struck it down as inconsistent with the Constitution
  • In its judgment in Harsh Mander v. Union of India and Karnika Sawhney v. Union of India, Delhi HC held that the Begging Act violated Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution
  • The Delhi High Court order striking down the Begging Act heeds the Constitution’s transformative nature.
  • It marks a crucial step forward in dismantling one of the most vicious and enduring legacies of colonialism.
  • A judgment delivered by the same court more than nine years ago, decriminalised homosexuality (Naz Foundation v. NCT of Delhi).
  • It is now the task of the Legislative Assembly and the government to replace the punitive structure of the (now defunct) Begging Act with a new set of measures that genuinely focusses on the rehabilitation and integration of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our society.
  • The Act was one strand of a web of colonial laws that dehumanised communities and ways of life.
  • The colonial administrators were particularly concerned about nomadic and itinerant communities, which by virtue of their movements and lifestyle were difficult to track, surveil, control, and tax.
  • Through laws such as the Criminal Tribes Act, and other legal weapons such as vagrancy laws, the regime attempted to destroy these patterns of life, by using criminal laws to coerce communities into settlements and subjecting them to forced labour.
  • Independence brought with it many changes, but also much continuity. Despite the birth of a Constitution that promised liberty, equality, fraternity, and dignity to all, independent India’s rulers continued to replicate colonial logic in framing laws for the new republic.
  • They continued to treat individuals as subjects to be controlled and administered, rather than rights-bearing citizens.
  • One of the most glaring examples of this is the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act.
  • The Begging Act was passed in 1959 by the State of Bombay, and has continued to exist in as many as 20 States and two Union Territories.
  • But last week, in a remarkable, landmark and long overdue judgment, the Delhi High Court struck it down as inconsistent with the Constitution.
  • Disobeying the rules of the institution can land an individual in jail.
  • From its first word to the last, the Begging Act reflects a vicious logic.
  • First, there is the definition of “begging”.
  • The Act defines it to include “soliciting or receiving alms, in a public place whether or not under any pretence such as singing, dancing, fortune telling, performing or offering any article for sale” and “having no visible means of subsistence and wandering about or remaining in any public place in such condition or manner, as makes it likely that the person doing so exist soliciting or receiving alms.”
  • The pointed reference to “singing, dancing, fortune telling, performing or offering any article for sale” makes it clear that the purpose of the Act is not simply to criminalise the act of begging (as commonly understood), but to target groups and communities whose itinerant patterns of life do not fit within mainstream stereotypes of the sedentary, law-abiding citizen with a settled job.
  • And the reference to “no visible means of subsistence and wandering about” punishes people for the crime of looking poor — but it also reflects the lawmakers’ desire to erase from public spaces people who look or act differently, and whose presence is perceived to be a bother and a nuisance.
  • The Begging Act encodes into law the vicious prejudice that recently saw a prominent institution putting up spikes outside its Mumbai branch, to deter rough sleeping (they were removed after public outrage).
  • Once individuals fall within its clutches, the Begging Act effectively renders them invisible, by confining them to “certified institutions” after a truncated, summary judicial procedure.
  • Like the poorhouses of 19th century Europe, it is based on a philosophy of first criminalising poverty, and then making it invisible by physically removing “offenders” from public spaces.
  • Effectively, it places a cordon sanitaire around the poor and the “undesirable”, keeping them from accessing spaces reserved for the use of “respectable” citizens.
  • For these people, the constitutional guarantees of pluralism and inclusiveness do not exist.
  • The authorities have not hesitated to use the Begging Act as a weapon. Just before the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the Delhi government was engaged in combing operations to take beggars off the street, lest their presence embarrass the nation in the eyes of foreigners.
  • Such operations are also a regular part of preparing for national events, such as Independence Day and Republic Day.

The judicial view

  • In its judgment delivered last week (Harsh Mander v. Union of India and Karnika Sawhney v. Union of India), a Bench of the Delhi High Court presided over by the Chief Justice, held that the Begging Act violated Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.
  • In oral argument, the government conceded that it did not intend to criminalise “involuntary” begging.
  • The High Court noted, however, that the definition of begging under the Act made no such distinction, and was therefore entirely arbitrary.
  • More importantly, it also held that under Article 21 of the Constitution, it was the state’s responsibility to provide the basic necessities for survival — food, clothing, shelter — to all its citizens.
  • Poverty was the result of the state’s inability — or unwillingness — to discharge these obligations. Therefore, the state could not turn around and criminalise the most visible and public manifestation of its own failures — and indeed, penalise people who were doing nothing more than communicating the reality of their situation to the public.
  • The Delhi High Court’s judgment marks a crucial step forward in dismantling one of the most vicious and enduring legacies of colonialism. It is as significant and important as a judgment delivered by the same court more than nine years ago, when it decriminalised homosexuality (Naz Foundation v. NCT of Delhi).
  • It is perhaps fitting that this judgment comes just a few days before the Supreme Court is likely to vindicate Naz Foundation after a 10-year legal battle.
  • Both Naz Foundation and Harsh Mander recognise that our Constitution is a transformative Constitution, which seeks to undo legacies of injustice and lift up all individuals and communities to the plane of equal citizenship.
  • However, it remains only one step forward. Hopefully, other High Courts will follow suit and the constitutionality of vagrancy laws as well as other provisions in the Indian Penal Code that criminalise status will also be called into question.
  • Nonetheless, it is important to remember one thing: a court can strike down an unconstitutional law, but it cannot reform society. Poverty — as the Chief Justice recognised in her judgment — is a systemic and structural problem.
  • The Delhi High Court has done its job in striking down a vicious law that criminalised poverty.
  • But it is the task of the Legislative Assembly and the government to replace the punitive structure of the (now defunct) Begging Act with a new set of measures that genuinely focusses on the rehabilitation and integration of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our society.

2. BCCI revamp: On Lodha panel recommendations

Justice RM Lodha Committee has submitted its report to the Supreme Court suggesting reforms in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

The committee was appointed by the SC in 2014 to make recommendations to the BCCI in order to prevent frauds and conflict of interest in cricket administration.

Major Recommendations Committee

  • Governing Bodies: They should be separate for Indian Premier League (IPL) and BCCI, with limited autonomy for the IPL Governing Council.
  • BCCI office-bearer: No Minister or government servant should become a BCCI office-bearer.
  • BCCI office-bearer’s tenure: It should not exceed more than two consecutive terms, and he/she cannot hold two posts at the same time.
  • Membership: Only to team representing the respective states. Each state should have only one vote.
  • Zones: The relevance of different zones should be for the purpose of tournaments and not for the governance of the BCCI and its committees.
  • State Associations: There should be uniformity of structure in the organisation and functioning of state associations on the lines of BCCI.
  • Management: The BCCI management affairs should be done by professionals led by Chief executive officer (CEO).
  • Players Associations: It should be formed for the international as well as for the first class levels. It should be for both men and women teams.
  • Player’s ethics: BCCI should carry out awareness programmes for the players.
  • Players Agents: They must be registered under the BCCI and players association norms.
  • Betting and match-fixing: Betting should be legalised and match-fixing should be made criminal offence.
  • Conflict of Interest: To avoid conflicts it should be handled with the norms laid down by an ethics officer.
  • The Electoral Officer and Ombudsman: The electoral officer will oversee the election process, while the ombudsman to resolve grievances.
  • Functioning and Transparency: All details and rues of BCCI must be uploaded on the website on BCCI for transparency functioning purpose. BCCI should come under the purview of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
  • Supervision of Expenses: It should be carried out by an independent auditor.
  • Two years after accepting the Justice R.M. Lodha Committee’s recommendations, the Supreme Court has now extended some concessions to those aggrieved by the rigorous rules, which aimed to revamp cricket administration in the country.
  • The reasoning given in the order of a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra suggests that it is a pragmatic modification rather than a significant climb down.
  • Justice Lodha, a former Chief Justice of India, however, feels that the court has now knocked out the foundation of his recommendations.
  • The most significant change concerns the cooling-off period prescribed for office-bearers before they are allowed to contest for a subsequent term.
  • Against the panel’s view that every office-bearer of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, in the national board or in a State association, should have a three-year break after a three-year term, the court has now allowed two three-year terms — that is, a tenure of six years — before the mandatory break kicks in.
  • The logic behind a cooling-off period is that office-bearers should not be given lengthy tenures that enable them to establish personal fiefdoms.
  • The argument against it is that the experience and knowledge that office-bearer gains over three years should not be frittered away, and a second term could help consolidate such learnings.
  • The Bench has accepted the logic behind this and chosen to defer the cooling-off period until she completes two terms.
  • Given that there is a nine-year aggregate limit as well as an age limit of 70 for any office-bearer, this change may not amount to any significant dilution of the core principle that there should be no perpetuation of power centres.
  • The Lodha panel had also favoured the ‘one State, one vote’ norm. This meant that an association representing a State alone should be recognised as a voting member of the BCCI, while associations representing a region within a State or entities that do not represent a territory should not have the same vote or status.
  • This norm has been overruled. Gujarat and Maharashtra will have three votes each, as the associations of Baroda and Saurashtra in Gujarat, and Mumbai and Vidarbha in Maharashtra will have separate votes.
  • In this, too, the court has accepted the reasoning that associations that had contributed significantly to Indian cricket need not be stripped of their full membership.
  • It is now up to the administrators of the future to dispel Justice Lodha’s apprehensions that this may lead to manipulation of votes.
  • Whether the changes adopted by the court while finalising a new constitution for the BCCI differ in significant ways from what was proposed by the Lodha committee will be a matter of debate.
  • However, judicial intervention has been immensely helpful in making cricket administration more efficient and professional, and addressing the credibility deficit of recent times.

3. ISRO set to launch its TV channel

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will have a year-long Vikram Sarabhai centenary celebration starting in August 2019 to honour the visionary scientist and its legendary founding father.
  • In a few months’ time, it plans to roll out a dedicated ISRO TV channel showcasing space applications, developments and science issues, targeting young viewers and people in remote areas in their language.
  • Sarabhai, the architect of the Indian space programme, the first ISRO chief and renowned cosmic ray scientist, was born on August 12, 1919.
  • ISRO’s tributes to Sarabhai start with naming the first Indian moon landing spacecraft of the Chandrayaan-2 mission ‘Vikram’. The mission is planned for early 2019.
  • A chair each at Sarabhai’s two alma maters, Cambridge University and Gujarat University, as also at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), would be set up, apart from giving awards, scholarships and fellowships in the country and abroad.
  • Sarabhai was only 28 when he sowed the seeds of a space agency around the late 1940s and 1950s.
  • Sivan said 100 lectures by science luminaries would be held across the country and in association with the International Astronautical Federation, the global space networking body. Space clubs, knowledge centres and talk shows are also among the plans.
  • As it strengthens its public outreach, ISRO will shortly start allowing the public to watch satellite launches from its Sriharikota launch centre.

Vikram Sarabhai

  • Sarabhai was considered as the Father of the Indian space program; he was a great institution builder and established or helped to establish a large number of institutions in diverse fields.
  • He was instrumental in establishing the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad: after returning from Cambridge to an independent India in 1947, he persuaded charitable trusts controlled by his family and friends to endow a research institution near home in Ahmedabad.
  • Thus, Vikram Sarabhai founded the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad on November 11, 1947. He was only 28 at that time. Sarabhai was a creator and cultivator of institutions and PRL was the first step in that direction. Vikram Sarabhai served of PRL from 1966-1971.
  • He was also Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. He along with other Ahmedabad-based industrialists played a major role in the creation of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

Indian Space Program

The establishment of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was one of his greatest achievements.

  • He successfully convinced the government of the importance of a space programme for a developing country like India after the Russian Sputnik launch. Dr. Sarabhai emphasized the importance of a space program in his quote:
    Homi Jehangir Bhabha, widely regarded as the father of India’s nuclear science program, supported Dr. Sarabhai in setting up the first rocket launching station in India.
  • This center was established at Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram on the coast of the Arabian Sea, primarily because of its proximity to the equator.
  • After a remarkable effort in setting up the infrastructure, personnel, communication links, and launch pads, the inaugural flight was launched on November 21, 1963 with a sodium vapour payload.
  • As a result of Dr. Sarabhai’s dialogue with NASA in 1966, the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) was launched during July 1975 – July 1976 (when Dr.Sarabhai was no more).
  • Sarabhai started a project for the fabrication and launch of an Indian Satellite. As a result, the first Indian satellite, Aryabhata, was put in orbit in 1975 from a Russian Cosmodrome.
  • Sarabhai was very interested in science education and founded a Community Science Centre at Ahmedabad in 1966. Today, the Centre is called the Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre.

4. World’s first mission to touch the Sun lifts off: NASA

Parker Solar Probe

  1. NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe – the space agency’s first mission to the sun – that will explore the sun’s atmosphere and its outermost atmosphere, the corona.
  2. The spacecraft is named after 91-year old solar physicist Eugene Parker, 91, who was the first scientist to describe solar wind in 1958.
  3. The probe, about the size of a car, will fly through the Sun’s atmosphere and will come as close as 3.8 million miles to the star’s surface, well within the orbit of Mercury.
  4. It will be more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before. The Parker probe is expected to make 24 loops of the Sun over seven years.

What makes its special?

  1. During the journey, the spacecraft will fly by Venus at speeds of 4, 30, 000 mph, the equivalent of flying from New York to Tokyo in one minute.
  2. In order to reach an orbit around the sun, the Parker Solar Probe will take seven flybys of Venus that will essentially give a gravity assist, shrinking its orbit over the course of nearly seven years.
  3. It will have to endure temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) and solar radiation intensities 475 times higher than we’re used to here on Earth.

Main objectives of Parker Solar Probe

  1. The mission will attempt to uncover the Sun’s mysteries about its structure and magnetic and electric fields, as well as the energetic particles cruising near and away from Earth’s star.
  2. These events can affect satellites and astronauts as well as the Earth including power grids and radiation exposure on airline flights.
  3. The information will help researchers and scientists solve longstanding mysteries:
  • How the solar wind is accelerated
  • Why the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, is so much hotter than the solar surface
  • Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energy particles

What part of this mission will ‘touch’ the Sun?

  1. The Solar Probe Cup, dubbed ‘the bravest little instrument’, is a sensor will extend beyond the heat shield to take samples of the Sun’s atmosphere.
  2. The cup will glow red when the probe makes its closest approach to the sun, sampling the solar wind and effectively touching the sun.

Mission to end in 2025

  1. The mission is scheduled to end in June 2025 till it runs out of propellent.
  2. The first data download from the Parker Solar Probe is expected in early December after the probe reaches its first close approach of the sun in November.
  3. In 10 to 20 years, a carbon disk will be floating around the sun in orbit, and it will be around until the end of the solar system.

Europe’s Solar Probe in works

  1. The European Space Agency is also building a similar solar probe.
  2. Solar Orbiter, or SolO is undergoing final assembly and testing in the UK.
  3. It is expected to launch in 2020, arriving at its closest position to the Sun towards the end of Parker’s planned seven years of operations.
  4. SolO will go to within 42 million km of the Sun’s surface. That’s further away than Parker but it will still need an impressive shield.

Aditya-L1’s launch is also near

  1. Aditya-L1 is a spacecraft whose mission is to study the Sun.
  2. It was conceptualised by the Advisory Committee for Space Research in January 2008.
  3. It has been designed and will be built in collaboration between Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and various Indian research organizations.
  4. It will be launched by ISRO around 2019 or 2020.

5. More banks report tightening of credit standards, shows survey

  1. A survey conducted by FICCI and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) showed more respondents claiming they had tightened credit standards during January-June 2018, the period in which survey was conducted.
  2. 67% respondents among participating banks have reported tightening of standards, steeply increasing from 28% in the last round of the survey.
  3. A total of 22 public sector, private sector and foreign banks participated in the survey, which is conducted twice a year. These banks together represent 64% of the banking industry, as classified by asset size.
  4. This round has been conducted at a time when NPAs have shot past the Rs. 10-lakh crore marks and continue to rise.

IBC effect

  1. The survey noted that with stressed assets rising, banks have generally adopted a cautious approach in lending, to prevent fresh slippages.
  2. As was the case in the previous round of the survey, 59% of the respondent banks reported a rise in NPAs in the current round of the survey.
  3. Infrastructure, metals and engineering goods were the key sectors reported with the highest NPAs. More than two-thirds of the respondents have cited these as sectors with high NPAs.
  4. At the same time, most participating banks agreed that the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) had made the recovery process faster and improved the recovery position of banks.
  5. To improve the resolution rate, bankers suggested strengthening of the judiciary, enhancing capacity, empowerment of local level government officials, among other suggestions.
  6. They also said that extension of the moratorium beyond 270 days for any reason should not be permitted.

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