Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 21st December 2021

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1.  Lok Sabha passes Bill to link electoral rolls with Aadhaar 

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims – Polity & Governance | Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Linking Aadhaar-Voter-ID| UPSC

Context: Lok Sabha introduced the Election Laws (Amendment Bill) 2021 to link voter identity and Aadhaar Card.

Changes Introduced

  • The electoral registration officer may for the purpose of establishing the identity of any person require that such person may furnish the Aadhaar number given by the Unique Identification Authority of India as per the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016:
  • Provided that the electoral registration officer may also require the Aadhaar number from persons already included in the electoral roll for the purposes of authentication of entries in electoral roll and to identify registration of name of the same person in the electoral roll of more than one constituency or more than once in the same constituency.
  • Every person whose name is included in the electoral roll may intimate his Aadhaar number to such authority in such form and manner as may be prescribed, on or before a date to be notified by the Central Government in the Official Gazette.
  • No application for inclusion of name in the electoral roll shall be denied and no entries in the electoral roll shall be deleted for inability of an individual to furnish or intimate Aadhaar number due to such sufficient cause as may be prescribed: Provided that such individual may be allowed to furnish such other alternate documents as may be prescribed.

Linking of Aadhaar with Voter ID

Merits Concerns
 

    • Curb the menace of multiple enrolment of same person in different places
    • It helps in checking the entry of repeat, multiple, illegal, invalid or false voters
    • Reducing voting fraud – check on duplication
    • Improved accessibility of voting – Improve Voter Participation – migrant workers

 

 

    • In absence of data protection law, such integration can undermine integrity of electoral roll.
    • Possibility of disenfranchisement of voters due to integration leading to violation of universal suffrage under Article 326 – as was witnessed in Andhra and Telangana
    • Use of demographic information by the government for targeted advertising or possible deletion from electoral rolls
    • Given the reported scope for fraud with Aadhaar, this process could undermine the sanctity of the voter roll.
    • Linking of Aadhaar must also pass the test of right to privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution
    • Synchronisation of Aadhaar (Residents) with EPIC (Citizens) – may allow voting rights to non-citizens
    • Challenge to counter Proportionality for EC  – A law can be considered proportional only if there are no other less restrictive and equally effective alternatives or it does not have a disproportionate impact on the rights holder.
    • Thus, any disenfranchisement caused by the linking of Aadhaar and Voter IDs would be legally impermissible (not allowed under Article 326 and RPAs), and particularly detrimental to those from marginalised communities and vulnerable sections.

Important Terms

  • “Biometric Information” means photograph, finger print, Iris scan, or such other biological attributes of an individual as may be specified by regulations;
  • “Demographic Information” includes information relating to the name, date of birth, address and other relevant information of an individual, as may be specified by regulations for the purpose of issuing an Aadhaar number, but shall not include race, religion, caste, tribe, ethnicity, language, records of entitlement, income or medical history.
  • “Authentication” means the process by which the Aadhaar number along with demographic information or biometric information of an individual is submitted to the Central Identities Data Repository for its verification and such Repository verifies the correctness, or the lack thereof, on the basis of information available with it;

The Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation, Knowledge) Rules, 2020

  • Purposes for Aadhaar authentication – Central Government may allow Aadhaar authentication by requesting entities in the interest of good governance, preventing leakage of public funds, promoting ease of living of residents and enabling better access to services for them, for the following purposes, namely:
    • usage of digital platforms to ensure good governance
    • prevention of dissipation of social welfare benefits; and
    • enablement of innovation and the spread of knowledge
  • Aadhaar authentication shall be done on a VOLUNTARY BASIS
  • On receipt of proposal of Aadhaar Authentication, if UIDAI is satisfied, then it shall inform the Central Government that the requesting entity may be allowed to perform Aadhaar authentication
  • Thereafter, the Ministry or the Department of the Government of India or the State Government may be authorised by the Central Government to allow for Aadhaar authentication.

 

2.  A strategic bulwark

UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations

Sub Theme: Central Asia Outreach| Concerns for India | UPSC

  • The third India-Central Asia Dialogue convened by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Sunday is one in a series of timely connections to the region by New Delhi this year, spurred in some measure by events in Afghanistan.
  • The dialogue has been held a month before leaders of all five Central Asian Republics (CARs) come to New Delhi as chief guests for the Republic Day celebrations, and a month after National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s “Regional Security Dialogue” with his CAR counterparts to discuss Afghanistan. Among the issues discussed on Sunday were extending “immediate” humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, increasing trade, and improving connectivity.
  • It is significant that the CAR Foreign Ministers chose to come to New Delhi, an indicator that India’s outreach to Central Asia, a region neglected by South Block for several decades, is being reciprocated. The joint statement, that they share a “broad regional consensus” on Afghanistan, is apt, given that, like India, all the Central Asian neighbours of Afghanistan worry about the threat of terrorism, radicalisation, narcotics, and refugees.
  • However, unlike India, most of the CARs maintain bilateral talks with the Taliban regime; Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have reopened missions there. Trade between India and Central Asia has long languished below $2 billion, with all sides keen to grow this. In addition, India’s $1 billion Line of Credit for projects in Central Asia, and connectivity initiatives such as Chabahar port, the International North-South Transport Corridor and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline were all part of the dialogue.
  • While the strengthening of India-Central Asia ties and a revival of their traditional, historical and cultural links are much needed, it is also important to recognise the geopolitical cross-currents that complicate such efforts. While Russia continues to wield influence in the CAR governments, China’s Belt and Road Initiative and $100 billion trade (by some estimates) have made it a central figure in the region.
  • The U.S. has also been seeking a foothold in the region, especially after Afghanistan. Meanwhile, India’s land connectivity to Central Asia is hampered by Pakistan which is building strong links and transit trade agreements with each of the CARs. The alternative route, via Iran’s Chabahar, has received a setback after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, and the development of the Indian-managed Shahid Beheshti terminal there continues to suffer due to the threat of American sanctions.
  • While India has strengthened ties with other parts of Asia, it must now redouble its efforts towards Central Asia if it is to counter the ‘Great Game’ rivalries playing out in the region, and reclaim its shared history with countries that are an important market, a source for energy, and also a bulwark against the threats of extremism and radicalisation.

 

3.  The sustained attack on federalism

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains: GS Paper-II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: Federal Structure| Constraints on states’ federal rights | UPSC

Legislative Issues

  • Increasing Centralisation
    • converting Bills into Money Bill
    • Excessive use of ordinance
    • Lack of debates in Parliament on key issues
    • Passing of Bills without sending to Parliamentary Committees
  • Increasing use of Concurrent List by the Centre to frame laws for socio-economic development –
    • Three Farm Laws
    • Greater central role – Electricity Amendment Bill – Selection Committee – State Electricity Regulatory Commission
  • Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021 – disturbing balance between LG-CM

Financial Issues

  • Limited borrowing powers of state from outside India – Article 293
  • Higher Share of Cess and surcharge collected by Centre (A-271) is not distributed among the States – Agri Infrastructure Cess
  • Problems in Paying GST compensation Cess to States due to fall in revenue because of COVID
  • Sharing of finance by states in Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) is also a burden on states
  • Lack of Operational & Financial Autonomy to Implement CSS by states
  • Reducing number of Left Wing Affected Districts (recent report) impacts central assistance to such districts
  • Fiscal Deficit of State cannot exceed 3% of State’s GDP as per FRBM Act. Increase FRBM borrowing limits by Union – linking it to the performance of States in fulfilling certain conditions — implementation of the One Nation, One Ration policy, ease of doing business reforms, urban local body/utility reforms and power sector reforms
  • Centre’s Permission on future Borrowings through recently launched 50-year interest free loan for states
  • Suspension of MPLADS during COVID & transfer of funds to CFI
  • CM Disaster Relief Funds not considered part of CSR – PM-CARES Fund is under CSR Exemption

Administrative Issues

  • Discretionary powers of Governor
  • Reserving Bills for President – Article 201
  • Use of Article 356 to dismiss government
  • Increasing interference of Governors & LG in daily administration – ignores elected government
  • Special Powers of Governors under Fifth and Sixth Schedule
  • Constitutional Asymmetry – Special Provisions – Article 371A-J
  • Lack of co-ordination with states on issues of health facilities of state – state list
  • Concerns & Challenges in working of– Inter-state Council, Zonal Council, NE Council
  • Creation of Ministry of Cooperation (SC Judgment declaring part of Constitution 97th Amendment as invalid – PART IXB – State Cooperatives – Entry 32 )

Way Forward Suggested

  • Constitute another State-centric committee like the Rajamannar Committee to study Union-State relations.
  • Constitute formal institutional framework to mandate and facilitate consultation between the Union and the States in the areas of legislation under the Concurrent List – NCRWC
  • Implement Recommendations of Punchhi Commission
    • Recommended larger role for the Inter-State Council in management of matters in the concurrent or overlapping jurisdiction of the Union and States.
    • Recommended strengthening and mainstreaming of the Inter-State Council to make it a vibrant forum for all the tasks contemplated in Clauses (a) to (c) of Article 263.
    • The Council can further have expert advisory bodies or administrative tribunals with quasi-judicial authority to give recommendations to the Council if and when needed.
    • Commission must be granted autonomy necessary to for functioning as a Constitutional body independent of the Union and the States and must be staffed accordingly.

 

4.  BIMSTEC working on joint disaster relief plans

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Security | Mains: GS Paper-III – Security

Sub Theme: PANEX-21 | BIMSTEC | UPSC

  • PANEX-21 is a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Exercise for BIMSTEC members (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) member nations, organised at College of Military Engineering in Pune.
  • PANEX-21 involves multiple agencies from multiple countries to review our Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief mechanism and streamline our response strategy in the backdrop of a pandemic.
  • The equipment display, organised in association with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), is aimed to showcase the niche industrial capabilities and capacities of the Indian industry on disaster relief operations.
  • Many innovative solutions, capabilities and range of products to assist government agencies in planning, preparation and conduct of HADR operations were demonstrated to the delegates of member nations of BIMSTEC.
  • The exercise will facilitate improved coordination for meeting future challenges related to cyclones & earthquakes and threats like COVID-19.

BIMSTEC

  • Established as a grouping of four nations — India, Thailand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (‘BIST-EC’ – Bangladesh, India, Sri-Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation) — through the Bangkok Declaration of 1997 to promote rapid economic development.
  • It was renamed as ‘BIMST-EC’ in 1997, following the inclusion of Myanmar.
  • With the admission of Nepal and Bhutan in 2004, the name of the grouping was changed to ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC).
  • BIMSTEC was expanded later to include three more countries — Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan.
  • Present members –  Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand
  • Its members lie in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity. BIMSTEC not only connects South and Southeast Asia, but also the ecologies of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal.
  • Platform for intra-regional cooperation between SAARC and ASEAN members.
  • A fourth of the world’s traded goods cross the bay every year.
  • Important Connectivity Projects:
    • Kaladan Multimodal Project – links India and Myanmar.
    • Asian Trilateral Highway – connecting India and Thailand through Myanmar.
    • Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement – for seamless flow of passenger and cargo traffic.

Strategic Significance for India: Enables India to pursue three core policies:

  1. Neighbourhood First – primacy to the country’s immediate periphery;
  2. Act East – connects India with Southeast Asia; and
  3. Economic development of India’s North Eastern states – by linking them to the Bay of Bengal region via Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • India has moved from Look East Policy to Act East Policy and Indo Pacific cooperation through its diaspora, culture and connectivity. This has led to India’s goodwill in the region.
  • Allows India to counter China’s creeping influence in countries around the Bay of Bengal due to the spread of its Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Physical connectivity with BIMSTEC would also help India integrate itself with ASEAN’s Master Plan of Connectivity 2025.
  • A new platform for India to engage with its neighbours with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) becoming dysfunctional because of differences between India and Pakistan. BIMSTEC suddenly received special attention as New Delhi chose to treat it as a more practical instrument for regional cooperation over a faltering SAARC.
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