24th August Current Affairs
August 25, 2021
26th August Current Affairs
August 26, 2021
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25th August Current Affairs

GM soya cake imports

(GS-III: Bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights)

In News:

With rising soyabean prices escalating the poultry industry’s costs, the Centre has allowed the import of 1.2 million metric tonnes of crushed and de-oiled genetically modified (GM) soya cake till October 31, 2021.

Need for:

Soyabean meal is an essential raw material for the poultry industry, but prices have more than doubled over the past couple of months. Besides, protein sources like fish, meat and milk have recorded high inflation.

Status of GM Soybean and soyabean seeds in India:

India allows the import of GM soybean and canola oil. Import of GM soya bean seeds was so far not approved in India.

Concerns/criticisms associated with the latest move:

Environmental activists have raised concerns about the permission given for something derived from a genetically modified plant to enter the human food chain, given that India’s regulatory system has yet to approve GM foods.

Besides, the 1989 rules of the Environment Protection Act applied not just to GM organisms, but also products and substances thereof.

Approval Process for GM crops in India:

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the apex body that allows for commercial release of GM crops.

Use of the unapproved GM variant can attract a jail term of 5 years and fine of Rs. 1 lakh under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is the authorised body to regulate the imported crops in India.

What are Genetically Modified crops?

A GM or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.

GM crop can contain a gene(s) that has been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring it through pollination.

UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)

(GS-II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate)

In News:

World leaders are planning to meet to discuss the renewal of the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which expires on September 17.

Background:

Taliban has launched a major nationwide offensive in the wake of the withdrawal of foreign troops over the past few months.

What is UNAMA?

UNAMA was established on 28 March 2002 by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1401.

It was basically established to assist the state and the people of Afghanistan in laying the foundations for sustainable peace and development.

Its original mandate was to support the implementation of the Bonn Agreement (December 2001).

Reviewed annually, this mandate has been altered over time to reflect the needs of the country.

UNAMA is an integrated mission. This means that the Special Political Mission, all UN agencies, funds and programmes, work in a multidimensional and integrated manner to better assist Afghanistan according to nationally defined priorities.

What is the Bonn Agreement?

Bonn was a closed-door negotiation; participants were isolated, outside contact was limited during the negotiations, and there was no publicity until after the agreement was signed.

The existing nominal head of state (Rabbani) was sidelined and did not participate, and the Taliban were completely excluded from the Bonn negotiations.

The United Nations and several other international actors played major roles in pushing the negotiations forward, and the Bonn Agreement was blessed by the U.N. Security Council.

The Bonn Agreement set an ambitious three-year political and administrative roadmap which was, by and large, followed:

The Emergency Loya Jirga (grand council) of June 2002 established the transitional administration, a new Constitution was ratified in early 2004, and presidential and parliamentary elections were held in 2004 and 2005.

What are UN special political missions?

The term ‘Special Political Mission’ encompasses entities that are not managed or directed by the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) such as the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.

What is the procedure to arrest a cabinet minister in India?

(GS-II: Topics Covered: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies)

In News:

Union minister Narayan Rane was arrested after his statement against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

So, what is the procedure of arresting a Union minister?

A Union minister or a Member of Parliament enjoys certain privileges but most of them are available when Parliament is in session.

If Parliament is not in session, police or other law enforcement agencies may arrest a Union cabinet minister in a criminal case.

But, under Section 222A of the Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business of the Rajya Sabha, the police or a judge issuing an arrest order is required to intimate the Rajya Sabha Chairman about the reason for and place of arrest. The Chairman gets it published in a Rajya Sabha.

Is there any protection available to Union ministers?

A Union minister or an MP enjoys protection from arrest 40 days before the start of a Parliament session, during its sittings and 40 days after its conclusion.

So, under Section 135 of the Code of Civil Procedure, Narayan Rane has the protection from arrest in a civil case as Parliament’s Monsoon Session ended earlier this month.

However, his arrest came in a criminal case. And, the protection from arrest does not cover criminal offences or preventive detention.

SC sets aside Haryana order creating a sub-category of creamy layer

(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)

In News:

Supreme Court has quashed Haryana government’s notification. It said economic criterion can’t be sole basis to decide ‘creamy layer’.

What is Reservation?

In simple terms, it is all about reserving access to seats in the government jobs, educational institutions, and even legislatures to certain sections of the population.

Also known as affirmative action, the reservation can also be seen as positive discrimination backed by the Indian Constitution.

Constitutional and legal backing related to reservation:

Article 14: Equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.

Articles 15(1) and 15(2): Prohibit the state from discriminating against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth.

But clauses (3) to (5) of Article 15 empower the state to provide for positive discrimination in favour of the grossly underrepresented and neglected sections of the society in order to promote substantive equality or better to say EQUITY.

Article 16: Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.

Article 16 clause (4)Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.

Why Supreme Court had to intervene?

Two notifications were issued by the Haryana government sub-classifying backward classes solely on economic basis while fixing the criteria for creamy layer.

The apex court held that the Haryana’s notifications have violated the law declared in the Indra Sawhney judgment by identifying creamy layer only on the basis of income.

Apart from the economic criterion, social, educational and other factors must also be taken into account before defining a “creamy layer” among the backward classes.

What is the creamy layer?

It is a concept that sets a threshold within which OBC reservation benefits are applicable. While there is a 27% quota for OBCs in government jobs and higher educational institutions, those falling within the “creamy layer” cannot get the benefits of this quota.

Based on the recommendation of the Second Backward Classes Commission (Mandal Commission), the government on August 13, 1990 had notified 27% reservation for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) in vacancies in civil posts and services that are to be filled on direct recruitment.

After this was challenged, the Supreme Court on November 16, 1992 (Indira Sawhney case) upheld 27% reservation for OBCs, subject to exclusion of the creamy layer.

Few categories defined under Creamy Layer:

Income beyond 8 lakh: For those not in government services, the current threshold is an income of Rs 8 lakh per year.

Parents’ rank: For children of government employees, the threshold is based on their parents’ rank and not income.

Take away from Indira Sawhney case:

A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case of 1992 specifically answered the question “whether backward classes can be identified only and exclusively with reference to the economic criterion.”

The constitution bench had categorically ruled that a backward class cannot be determined only and exclusively with reference to economic criterion. The bench had held that economic criterion may be a consideration or basis along with, and in addition to, social backwardness, but it can never be the sole criterion.

Way forward:

Reservation based entirely on economic criteria is not an all-in-one solution, though family income can be one of the parameters. Also, its time to fix a time period for the reservation system – rather than extending it to eternity. Moreover, the reservation is not a poverty alleviation scheme. There is a need to adopt MADHYAM MARG to award excellence and merit along with providing equal opportunity to vulnerable sections.