ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY – 15 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

  • Why has Andhra Pradesh government has banned a 100-year-old play named ‘Chintamani Padya Natakam’

GS Paper 2:

  • India-Australia Interim Trade Agreement
  • Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 4.0

GS Paper 3:

  • JIO Platforms to Provide Satellite Broadband Services

GS PAPER -1

Why has Andhra Pradesh government has banned a 100-year-old play named ‘Chintamani Padya Natakam’:

Context:

       The Andhra Pradesh government has banned a 100-year-old play named ‘Chintamani Padya Natakam’.

What is ‘Chintamani Padya Natakam’?

       The play was written in 1920 by playwright Kallakuri Narayana Rao, who was also a social reformer.

  • The play is about Chintamani, a courtesan and a devotee of Lord Krishna, who finds salvation by singing bhajans.
  • She is courted by Subbi Shetty, a businessman from the Arya Vysya community, who loses his wealth and family due to his attraction to Chintamani.
  • The play is exhibited across the state, mainly in rural areas, during festivals and fairs.

 Why is there a controversy surrounding it?

  • The original play had a social message, but over the years, it has been modified purely for entertainment.
  • Much of the play sees central character Subbi Shetty made fun of, especially for losing all his wealth to his vices.
  • Also, the content and dialogues are offensive, and the Central character is always portrayed as a short and dark-coloured person.

Due to the way Shetty’s character is portrayed, the entire community is stigmatised.

 Why has it been banned?

           The Arya Vysya community has been petitioning governments for several years to ban the play, saying it portrays them in a negative light.

 Could the ban have been avoided?

        The state government explored the possibility of taking out Shetty’s character from the play instead of putting a blanket ban on it, but found him to be a central character.

GS PAPER - 2

India-Australia Interim Trade Agreement:

Why in News

           Recently, India and Australia have announced that they are set to conclude an Interim Trade Agreement in March 2022 and a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) 12-18 months thereafter.

The agreement will cover “most areas of interest for both countries” including goods, services, rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary measures and customs procedures.

  • Earlier, India, Japan and Australia have formally launched the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI).

What is an Interim Trade Agreement?

  • An interim or early harvest trade agreement is used to liberalise tariffs on the trade of certain goods between two countries or trading blocs before a comprehensive FTA (Free Trade Agreement) is concluded.
  • Government’s emphasis on interim agreements may be tactical so that a deal may be achieved with minimum commitments and would allow for contentious issues to be resolved later.
  • The problem, though, is that these early harvest schemes potentially target the low-hanging fruits, leaving the tougher goods and services for later.
  • This strategy can lead to significant delays in wrapping up the mode broad-based FTAs, which could potentially lead to impediments.
  • India had concluded an early harvest agreement with Thailand in 2004 but has not been able to conclude a comprehensive FTA with the country.
  • India also has a trade agreement with Sri Lanka dealing with goods but was not able to conclude an agreement on services and investments.
  • Early harvest agreements that do not graduate into full-scale FTAs are exposed to legal challenges from other countries that are members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).It is often beneficial to negotiate the entire deal together, as an early harvest deal may reduce the incentive for one side to work towards a full FTA.

What are Free Trade Agreements?

  • It is a pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them.
  • Under a free trade policy, goods and services can be bought and sold across international borders with little or no government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions to inhibit their exchange.
  • The concept of free trade is the opposite of trade protectionism or economic isolationism.
  • FTAs can be categorised as Preferential Trade Agreement, CECA , Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

What is India’s Current Trade Relation with Australia?

  • Bilateral trade between the two countries stood at about USD 12.5 billion in Financial Year (FY) 21 and has already surpassed USD 17.7 billion in the first 10 months of FY22.
  • India has imported merchandise worth about USD 12.1 billion from Australia in the first 10 months of the fiscal and has exported merchandise worth USD 5.6 billion in the same period.
  • Key imports from Australia include coal, gold and Liquified Natural gas while key exports to the country from India include diesel, petrol and gems and jewellery.

What Opportunities does the Agreement Brings?

  • The agreement with Australia is set to bring opportunities across sectors including mining, pharmaceuticals, health, education, renewables, railways, gems and jewellery, tourism, defence and textiles.
  • India is also likely to seek easier visa access for both students and professionals visiting Australia.
  • Australia is likely to seek market access for wines and agricultural products which are not produced on a large scale in India.
  • Both countries are also looking at mutual recognition of educational qualifications to boost the number of Indian students seeking education in Australia and vice versa and boost tourism in both countries.
  • India and Australia have also signed an MoU to boost tourism between the two countries.
  • The agreement would lead to deeper cooperation between the two countries in critical minerals and rare earth elements which are critical to future industries including renewable energy and electric vehicles.
  • As Australia has plentiful supplies of rare earths and critical minerals in but it needs places for them to be processed.

What is QUAD’s Impact on Trade Relations between India and Australia?

  • India and Australia are both members of the QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) along with the US and Japan.
  • Recently, the fourth meeting of the foreign ministers of the QUAD grouping (India, the US, Australia and Japan) was held in Melbourne, Australia.
  • Both countries have noted that the coalition has given impetus to increasing trade relations between all members of the QUAD.
  • Australia noted that it already had FTAs with both the US and Japan and that all four countries could start building a framework for economic cooperation within the countries of the QUAD after they announced a deal with India.

What Other Free Trade Agreements is India Currently Negotiating?

  • India is currently in the process of negotiating FTAs with the UAE, the UK , Canada, the European union  and Isral besides Australia.
  • India is also looking to complete an early harvest agreement with the UAE and the UK in the first half of 2022.

Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 4.0:

Why in News?

        Recently, the Ministry of Health virtually launched Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 4.0.

  • India is implementing the largest immunisation programme globally where it annually covers more than three crore pregnant women and 2.6 crore children through the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).

What is IMI 4.0?

  • It will ensure that Routine Immunization (RI) services reach unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children and pregnant women.
  • Children up to two years will be covered in this drive.
  • While the pace of routine immunisation has slowed down due to Covid-19 pandemic, IMI 4.0 will immensely contribute in filling the gaps and make lasting gains towards universal immunisation.
  • Three rounds of IMI 4.0 will be conducted in 416 districts, including 75 districts identified for Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav across 33 States/UTs.
  • These districts have been identified based on vaccination coverage as per the latest  National Family Health Survey-5 report, Health Management Information System (HMIS) data and burden of vaccine-preventable diseases.

What is the Universal Immunisation Programme?

  • The Immunization Programme in India was introduced in 1978 as ‘Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • In 1985, the Programme was modified as ‘Universal Immunization Programme (UIP)’. UIP prevents mortality and morbidity in children and pregnant women against 12 vaccine-preventable diseases.
  • But in the past, it was seen that the increase in immunization coverage had slowed down and it increased at the rate of 1% per year between 2009 and 2013.
  • To accelerate the coverage, Mission Indradhanush was envisaged and implemented since 2015 to rapidly increase the full immunization coverage to 90%.

What is Mission Indradhanush (MI)?

  • It was launched to fully immunize more than 89 lakh children who are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated under UIP.
  • It provides vaccination against 12 Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPD) i.e. diphtheria, Whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, meningitis and pneumonia, Haemophilus influenzae type B infections, Japanese encephalitis (JE), rotavirus vaccine, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) and measles-rubella (MR).
  • However, vaccination against Japanese Encephalitis and Haemophilus influenzae type B is being provided in selected districts of the country.
  • Mission Indradhansuh was also identified as one of the flagship schemes under Gram Swaraj Abhiyan and Extended Gram Swaraj Abhiyan.

What is Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI)?

  • It was launched in October 2017.
  • Under IMI, greater focus was given on urban areas which were one of the gaps of Mission Indradhanush.
  • It focused to improve immunisation coverage in select districts and cities to ensure full immunisation to more than 90% by December 2018 instead of 2020.

What is Intensified Mission Indradhanush 2.0?

  • It was a nationwide immunisation drive to mark the 25 years of Pulse polio programme (2019-20).
  • It had targets of full immunization coverage in 272 districts spread over 27 States.
  • It aimed to achieve at least 90% pan-India immunisation coverage by 2022.

What is Intensified Mission Indradhanush 3.0?

  • IMI 3.0 was launched in 2021.
  • Focus of the IMI 3.0 was the children and pregnant women who had missed their vaccine doses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Beneficiaries from migration areas and hard to reach areas were targeted as they might have missed their vaccine doses during Covid-19.

What are the Achievements So Far?

  • As of April 2021, during the various phases of Mission Indradhanush, a total of 3.86 crore children and 96.8 lakh pregnant women have been vaccinated.
  • The first two phases of Mission Indradhanush resulted in 6.7% increase in full immunisation coverage in a year.
  • A survey (IMI- CES) carried out in 190 districts covered in Intensified Mission Indradhanush (5th Phase of Mission Indradhanush) shows 18.5% points increase in full immunisation coverage as compared to National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4.
  • The Full Immunisation Coverage among children aged 12-23 months of age has increased from 62% (NFHS-4) to 76.4%(NFHS-5).

GS PAPER - 3

JIO Platforms to Provide Satellite Broadband Services:

Context:

     Jio has formed a joint-venture with Luxembourg-based SES to deliver satellite broadband services across India.

 How?

       The joint venture will use multi-orbit space networks that is a combination of GEO (geostationary equatorial orbit) and MEO (medium earth orbit) satellite constellations capable of delivering multi-gigabit links and capacity to enterprises, mobile backhaul and retail customers across the length and breadth of India and neighbouring regions.

 How is this different from what Star link or One Web offer?

      SES primarily has satellites in the GEO and the MEO, while those of Elon Musk-led Star link and Bharti Group’s One Web are in low earth orbit (LEO).

  • While GEO satellites are positioned at an altitude of 36,000 km, MEO and LEO are lower at altitudes of 5,000-20,000km and 500-1,200 km,
  • The altitude of the satellite is directly proportional to the area of earth that it covers. Therefore, the higher a satellite is positioned, the larger an area it covers.

Differences between GEO, MEO and LEO satellites:

Coverage: GEO satellites provide a larger coverage and therefore only three satellites can cover the whole earth.

  • Hundreds of LEO satellites are needed to provide coverage to a larger area.

Cost: LEO satellites are smaller and are cheaper to launch than GEOs or MEOs.

  • But, LEO based satellites have risks, for example the recent Starlink incident. SpaceX’s satellites fell out of orbit as a result of the solar flare.

 Criticisms of LEO satellites:

  • The balance of power has shifted from countries to companies since most of these are private companies run projects. As a result, there are questions related to who regulates these companies, especially given the myriad of nations that contribute to individual projects.
  • Complicated regulatory framework: Stakeholders in these companies are from various countries. Thus it becomes challenging to receive requisite licences to operate in each country.
  • Satellites can sometimes be seen in the night skies which creates difficulties for astronomers as the satellites reflect sunlight to earth, leaving streaks across images.
  • Satellites travelling at a lower orbit can also interrupt the frequency of those orbiting above them.
  • Those objects, colloquially referred to as ‘space junk,’ have the potential to damage spacecraft or collide with other satellites.

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ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY – 14 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

  • Sri Madhvacharya
  • Geomagnetic Storm

GS Paper 2:

  • Geomagnetic Storm
  • Free Legal Aid

GS Paper 3:

  • Misuse of Prevention of Money Laundering Act
  • India and WFP Supply Wheat to Afghanistan
  • Koalos as endangered species:Australia

GS PAPER - 1

Sri Madhvacharya:

Context:

         The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi recently paid his obeisances to Sri Madhvacharya on the occasion of Madhva Navami. 

About Sri Madhvacharya:

        Shri Madhvacharya was born near Udupi. He was born in 1238, on the auspicious day of Vijayadashami, and he was named Vasudeva.

  • He was the third of the trinity of philosophers who influenced Indian thoughts after the ages of the Vedas and Puranas (the other two being Shankaracharya and Ramanujacharya).
  • He propounded the philosophy of Dwaita or Dualism.
  • It was Achyutapreksha who gave him the title ‘Madhva’ by which he was more famously known.
  • Literary works: He wrote various texts that detailed his philosophy which he called Tattvavada, or as it is more popularly known, Dvaita. Some of his works were the Gita Bhashya, Brahma Sutra Bhashya, Anu Bhashya, Karma Nirnaya, and Vishnu Tattva Nirnaya.

 

About Dvaita philosophy:

  • The basic tenet of Dvaita philosophy is the refutation of the Mayavada of Sri Shankara. Dvaitha emphasizes that the world is real and not just an illusion.
  • The soul is bound to this world through ignorance.
  • The way for the soul to release itself from this bondage is to seek the grace of Sri Hari.
  • To reach Sri Hari, one has to practice Bhakthi, there is no other way.
  • To practice Bhakthi, one needs to meditate.
  • To meditate, one needs to clear the mind and attain detachment by studying the sacred texts

Geomagnetic Storm:

Context:

         Recently, Elon Musk’s Starlink has lost 40 satellites that were caught in a geomagnetic storm a day after they were launched.

  • However, these satellites have not created any space debris as the satellites were designed to burn up on reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

What are Geomagnetic Storms?

               Geomagnetic storms are caused when events such as solar flares can send higher than normal levels of radiation towards Earth. This radiation interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field causing a geomagnetic storm.

Causes:

        The disturbance that drives the magnetic storm may be a solar coronal mass ejection (CME) or (much less severely) a co-rotating interaction region (CIR), a high-speed stream of solar wind originating from a coronal hole.

Effects of Geomagnetic storms:

  • Effects from the geomagnetic storm can range from the appearance of auroras or the northern and southern lights to disruptions in communications systems due to high radiation. This would make it difficult to communicate with others on Earth.

Classification of Geomagnetic storms:

        Geomagnetic storms are classified according to a scale that measures the effect that storms will have.

  • At its safest level, a G1 storm affects power grids by causing weak fluctuations, minor impacts on satellite operations, and causes the northern and southern lights to occur.
  • At its most extreme, G5, there would be voltage control problems with some grid system collapses or blackouts, radio waves wouldn’t be able to travel for one to two days, low-frequency radio would be out for hours, and the auroras would be able to be seen at lower latitudes than usual

GS PAPER - 2

Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission:

Context:

        The National Health Authority has announced the integration of its flagship Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission with the Aarogya Setu app, allowing users to create the 14-digit unique Ayushman Bharat Health Account numbers from the app.

 About the Mission:

          The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission will provide a digital health ID to the people who will hold their health records.

Features of the Mission:

  1. It is a digital health ecosystem under which every Indian citizen will now have unique health IDs, digitised health records with identifiers for doctors and health facilities.
  2. The scheme will come under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
  3. It comprises six key building blocks — HealthID, DigiDoctor, Health Facility Registry, Personal Health Records, e-Pharmacy and Telemedicine.
  4. The National Health Authority has been given the mandate to design, build, roll-out and implement the mission in the country.
  5. The core building blocks of the mission is that the health ID, DigiDoctor and Health Facility Registry shall be owned, operated and maintained by the Government of India.
  6. Private stakeholders will have an equal opportunity to integrate and create their own products for the market. The core activities and verifications, however, remain with the government.
  7. Under the Mission, every Indian will get a Health ID card that will store all medical details of the person including prescriptions, treatment, diagnostic reports and discharge summaries.

  1. Health ID is a randomly generated 14 digit number used for the purposes of uniquely identifying persons, authenticating them, and threading their health records (only with their informed consent) across multiple systems and stakeholders.
  2. The citizens will be able to give their doctors and health providers one-time access to this data during visits to the hospital for consultation.

 What was the need for this mission?

       The mission aims to liberate citizens from the challenges of finding the right doctors, seeking appointment, payment of consultation fee, making several rounds of hospitals for prescription sheets, among several others and will empower people to make an informed decision to avail the best possible healthcare.

Free Legal Aid:

Why in News?

           Recently, the Ministry of Law and Justice informed Lok Sabha about the Pan India Legal Awareness and Outreach Campaign, which was launched in October 2021 on the occasion of National Legal Service Day (NLSD). The NLSD is celebrated on 9th November every year to spread awareness for ensuring reasonable fair and justice procedure for all citizens.

What is NLSD and Related Constitutional Provisions?

  • About:
    • NLSD was first started by the supreme court of India in 1995 to provide help and support to poor and weaker sections of the society.
    • Free legal services are provided in matters before Civil, Criminal and Revenue Courts, Tribunals or any other authority exercising judicial or quasi judicial functions.
    • It is observed to make the citizens of the country aware of the various provisions under the Legal Services Authorities Act and the rights of the litigants. On this day, each jurisdiction organizes legal aid camps, Lok adalats, and legal aid programmes.
  • Constitutional Provisions:
    • Article 39A of the Constitution of India provides that State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disability.
    • Articles 14 and 22(1) also make it obligatory for the State to ensure equality before law and a legal system which promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity to all.

What are the Objectives of Legal Service Authorities?

  • Provide free legal aid and advice.
  • Spread legal awareness.
  • Organize lok adalats
  • Promote settlements of disputes through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Mechanisms. Various kinds of ADR mechanisms are Arbitration, Conciliation, Judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat, or Mediation.
  • Provide compensation to victims of crime.

What are the Institutions for providing Free Legal Services?

  • National Level:
    • National Legal Services Authority (NALSA). It was constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief.
  • State Level:
    • State Legal Services Authority. It is headed by the Chief Justice of the State High Court who is its Patron-in-Chief.
  • District Level:
    • District Legal Services Authority. The District Judge of the District is its ex-officio Chairman.
  • Taluka/Sub-Division Level:
    • Taluka/Sub-Divisional Legal Services Committee. It is headed by a senior Civil Judge.
  • High Court: High Court Legal Services Committee
  • Supreme Court: Supreme Court Legal Services Committee.

Who is Eligible for Getting Free Legal Services?

  • Women and children
  • Members of SC/ST
  • Industrial workmen
  • Victims of mass disaster, violence, flood, drought, earthquake, industrial disaster.
  • Disabled persons
  • Persons in custody
  • Those persons who have annual income of less than the amount prescribed by the respective State Government, if the case is before any court other than the Supreme Court, and less than Rs. 5 Lakhs, if the case is before the Supreme Court.
  • Victims of Trafficking in Human beings or begar.

GS PAPER - 3

Misuse of Prevention of Money Laundering Act:

Why in News?

         The Supreme Court (SC) is examining allegations of rampant misuse of Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 (PMLA) by the government and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

What are the Major Allegations?

  • Being Used for Ordinary Crimes:
    • PMLA is pulled into the investigation of even “ordinary” crimes and assets of genuine victims have been attached.
    • PMLA was enacted in response to India’s global commitment (including the Vienna Convention) to combat the menace of money laundering. Instead, rights have been “cribbed, cabined and confined”.
    • PMLA was a comprehensive penal statute to counter the threat of money laundering, specifically stemming from trade in narcotics.
    • Currently, the offences in the schedule of the Act are extremely overbroad, and in several cases, have absolutely no relation to either narcotics or organised crime.
  • Lack of Transparency and Clarity:
    • Even the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) – an equivalent of the FIR – is considered an “internal document” and not given to the accused.
    • The ED treats itself as an exception to these principles and practises [of criminal procedure law] and chooses to register an ECIR on its own whims and fancies on its own file.
    • There is also a lack of clarity about ED’s selection of cases to investigate. The initiation of an investigation by the ED has consequences which have the potential of curtailing the liberty of an individual.

What is the Prevention of Money Laundering Act?

  • It forms the core of the legal framework put in place by India to combat Money Laundering.
  • The provisions of this act are applicable to all financial institutions, banks (Including RBI), mutual funds, insurance companies, and their financial intermediaries.
  • PMLA (Amendment) Act, 2012:
    • Adds the concept of ‘reporting entity’ which would include a banking company, financial institution, intermediary etc.
    • PMLA, 2002levied a fine up to Rs 5 lakh, but the amendment act has removed this upper limit.
    • It has provided for provisional attachment and confiscation of property of any person involved in such activities.

What is Money Laundering?

  • About:
    • Money laundering is the process of making large amounts of money generated by criminal activity, such as drug trafficking or terrorist funding, appear to have come from a legitimate source.
    • Criminal activities like illegal arms sales, smuggling, drug trafficking and prostitution rings, insider trading, bribery and computer fraud schemes produce large profits.
    • Thereby it creates the incentive for money launderers to “legitimise” the ill-gotten gains through money laundering.
    • The money generated is called ‘dirty money‘ and money laundering is the process of conversion of ‘dirty money’, to make it appear as ‘legitimate’ money.
  • Process of Money Laundering:
    • Money laundering is a three-stage process :
      • Placement: The first stage is when the crime money is injected into the formal financial system.
      • Layering: In the second stage, money injected into the system is layered and spread over various transactions with a view to obfuscate the tainted origin of the money.
      • Integration: In the third and the final stage, money enters the financial system in such a way that original association with the crime is sought to be wiped out and the money can then be used by the offender as clean money.
    • Some of the Common Methods of Money Laundering:
      • Bulk Cash Smuggling, Cash Intensive Businesses, Trade-based laundering, Shell companies and trusts, Round-tripping, Bank Capture, Gambling, Real Estate, Black Salaries, Fictional Loans, Hawala, False invoicing.

What is the Enforcement Directorate?

  • Directorate of Enforcement is a specialised financial investigation agency under the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance..
  • On 1st May 1956, an ‘Enforcement Unit’ was formed, in the Department of Economic Affairs, for handling Exchange Control Laws violations under Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947.
  • In the year 1957, this Unit was renamed as ‘Enforcement Directorate’.
  • ED enforces the following laws:
    • Foreign Exchange Management Act,1999 (FEMA)
    • Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA)

India and WFP Supply Wheat to Afghanistan:

Why in News?

            Recently, India signed an agreement with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) for the distribution of 50,000 MT of wheat that it has committed to sending to Afghanistan as part of a humanitarian assistance.

  • Earlier, the Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan was held. The meeting called for “urgent humanitarian assistance” to the Afghan people and urged close cooperation and consultation among the regional countries over the Afghan scenario.
  • In 2020, India sent more than 20 tonnes of medicines, other equipment and transported 75,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan to address the Covid-19 challenge.

What is the Wheat Agreement About?

  • The wheat will be taken through Pakistan to the Afghan border crossing and handed over to WFP officials in Kandahar beginning February 2022.
  • Iran has also offered to facilitate some of the wheat through Chabahar port and then on to Afghanistan’s border via Zahedan.

What is the Major Concern in Fulfilling the Agreement?

  • The route via Pakistan, which has been closed for all exports from India since 2019, and opened only as an exception, is likely to require several weeks for the transport of the current consignment, as infrastructure and labour required to load and reload the wheat has to be organised.
  • Pakistan had shut down all trade with India to protest the government’s changes in Jammu and Kashmir and Article 370 in August 2019. Subsequently, the Pakistan government had allowed Afghan exports to India to pass through the Wagah border, making an exception also for medicines from India during the pandemic.
  • India has also flown several consignments of medicines and medical equipment to hospitals in Afghanistan on board flights.

What is the United Nations World Food Programme?

  • About:
  • The World Food Programme (WFP) is the leading humanitarian organisation saving lives and changing lives, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience.
  • It was founded in 1961 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) with its headquarters in Rome, Italy.
  • It is also a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG), a coalition of UN agencies and organisations aimed at fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The WFP assists 88 countries, and has assisted 97 million people (in 2019) which is the largest number since 2012.
  • The WFP has been awarded with the Nobel Prize for Peace 2020 for its efforts to combat hunger, bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and preventing the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.
  • Major Objectives:
    • To end hunger by protecting access to food.
    • Improving nutrition and achieving food security.
    • Supporting the SDG implementation and partnering for its results.
    • To focus on emergency assistance as well as rehabilitation and development aid.
  • Major Reports:
  • Global Report on Food Crisis.

What is the Relation of WFP with India?

  • Background: WFP has been working in India since 1963, with work transitioning from food distribution to technical assistance since the country achieved self-sufficiency in cereal production.
  • The areas in which WFP mainly assists in India are:
    • Transforming the targeted public distribution system: WFP is working to improve the efficiency, accountability and transparency of India’s own subsidised food distribution system, which brings supplies of wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene oil to around 800 million poor people across the country.
    • Fortification of government distributed food: To boost the nutritional value of the Government’s Midday Meal school feeding programme, WFP is pioneering the multi-micronutrient fortification of school meals.
    • The pilot project saw rice fortified with iron, which was distributed in a single district, resulting in a 20% drop in anaemia.
    • It has also helped tackle malnutrition by fortifying food given to babies and young children in Kerala State.
    • Mapping and monitoring of food insecurity: WFP has used Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping softwares to identify India’s most food insecure areas, which allows policy and relief work to be targeted appropriately.
    • WFP is also supporting the government’s Poverty and Human Development Monitoring Agency in establishing a State-level Food Security Analysis Unit, working towards the goal of achieving Zero Hunger.
  • Strategy Plan for India: According to the country strategy plan for India (2019 – 2023), WFP aims to:
    • Enable the most vulnerable people of India to meet their minimum food and nutrition requirements throughout the year.
    • Enable people with a high risk of malnutrition, especially women, children and adolescent girls, to have improved nutrition by 2025.

Koalos as endangered species: Australia:

  • Why in News?

      Recently, Australia has officially classified koalas as ‘endangered’.

Why classified as Endangered and its Significance?

  • Classification as Endangered:
    • Australia’s Koala population has been on the road to extinction for over two decades now. The number of Koalas in NSW (New South Wales) declined by between 33% and 61% since 2001.
    • But despite several demands by animal rights groups and conservationists, the government has been accused of doing little to protect the species. Koalas were classified as “vulnerable” only in 2012.
    • During the catastrophic 2019 bushfires in Australia, now known as the ‘Black Summer’, an estimated 60,000 koalas were impacted, with vast swathes of their habitat being blackened and rendered unliveable.
    • Another major threat is the spread of chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease known to cause blindness and cysts in the koalas reproductive tract.
  • Significance:
    • The Endangered status of the koala means they and their forest homes should be provided with greater protection under Australia’s national environmental law.

What are the Key Things about Koalas?

  • About: Koala is (Phascolarctos cinereus) an arboreal (lives in trees) marsupial.
  • A marsupial is born in a very incomplete state. They are minute, hairless and with hind limbs only partially formed. Around 2/3rd of them live in Australia. The other third live mostly in South America.
  • Instead of the placenta, the mother’s milk nourishes the young and allows it to grow and develop.
  • They share a number of characteristics with wombats, who are their closest living relatives, including a backward-facing pouch.

 Habitat:

  • The typical habitat for Koalas is open eucalypt woodlands, and the leaves of these trees make up most of their diet. In terms of societal behavior, Koalas are asocial animals and typically emotional bonding is seen only between mothers and dependent offspring.
  • They are endemic to Australia.
  • Due to the low nutrient levels of the Eucalyptus leaves they feed on, the koala can sleep up to 18 hours each day.
  • IUCN Status:
  • Vulnerable

Threats:

 Habitat destruction, climate change & severe weather (Droughts, extreme temperatures). 

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ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY – 12 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

  • Anti-defection law
  • Collegium System for the Appointment Judges
  • Retrospective taxation by amending Income tax act

GS Paper 3:

  • Parlimentary Report on Police Reforms
  • One Ocean Summit

GS PAPER - 2

Anti-defection law:

Context:

      West Bengal Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee has dismissed the petition filed by Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari seeking Mukul Roy’s disqualification as an MLA under the anti-defection law for switching sides after elections.

  • Roy, a former BJP national vice-president, had defected to the ruling TMC in June last year.
  • Roy would now continue as a BJP legislator in the House in the wake of the ruling.

 What had the High Court ruled?

         The high court had asked the Speaker to take a decision on the petition for Roy’s disqualification as a member of the House by October 7. In case of failure, the court said that it would take a call on the matter.

  • Even the Supreme Court had expressed hope that the Speaker will take a decision on the disqualification plea soon.

Relevance: the Tenth Schedule of the Indian Constitution:

Popularly known as the anti-defection law.

  • It specifies the circumstances under which changing of political parties by legislators invites action under the law.
  • It was added to the Constitution by the 52nd Amendment Act.
  • It includes situations in which an independent MLA, too, joins a party after the election.

 The law covers three scenarios with respect to shifting of political parties by an MP or an MLA. These include:

  1. When a member elected on the ticket of a political party “voluntarily gives up” membership of such a party or votes in the House against the wishes of the party.
  2. When a legislator who has won his or her seat as an independent candidate joins a political party after the election.

In the above two cases, the legislator loses the seat in the legislature on changing (or joining) a party.

  1. Relates to nominated MPs. In their case, the law gives them six months to join a political party, after being nominated. If they join a party after such time, they stand to lose their seat in the House.

 Matters related to disqualification:

  • Under the anti-defection law, the power to decide the disqualification of an MP or MLA rests with the presiding officer of the legislature.
  • The law does not specify a time frame in which such a decision has to be made.
  • Last year, the Supreme Court observed that anti-defection cases should be decided by Speakers in three month’s time

 However, Legislators may change their party without the risk of disqualification in certain circumstances. Exceptions:

  1. The law allows a party to merge with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of its legislators are in favour of the merger.
  2. On being elected as the presiding officer of the House, if a member, voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or rejoins it after he ceases to hold that office, he won’t be disqualified.

Loopholes in the law:

    Those against say that voters elect individuals in the election and not parties and hence the Anti-Defection law is infructuous.

Can the courts intervene?

    Courts have, in certain cases, intervened in the workings of a legislature.

  1. In 1992, a five-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court held that the anti-defection law proceedings before the Speaker are akin to a tribunal and, thus, can be placed under judicial review.
  2. In January 2020, the Supreme Court asked Parliament to amend the Constitution to strip legislative assembly speakers of their exclusive power to decide whether legislators should be disqualified or not under the anti-defection law.
  3. In March 2020, the Supreme Court removed Manipur minister Thounaojam Shyam kumar Singh, against whom disqualification petitions were pending before the speaker since 2017, from the state cabinet and restrained him “from entering the legislative assembly till further orders”.

Collegium System for the appointment Judges:

Why in News?

       Recently, the Supreme Court Collegium has recommended appointing Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari as Chief Justice of Madras High Court.

What is a Collegium System and How Did It Evolve?

  • It is the system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court (SC) , and not by an Act of Parliament  or by a provision of the Constitution.
  • Evolution of the System:
    • First Judges Case (1981):
      • It declared that the “primacy” of the CJI’s (Chief Justice of India) recommendation on judicial appointments and transfers can be refused for “cogent reasons.”
      • The ruling gave the Executive primacy over the Judiciary in judicial appointments for the next 12 years.
    • Second Judges Case (1993):
      • SC introduced the Collegium system, holding that “consultation” really meant “concurrence”.
      • It added that it was not the CJI’s individual opinion, but an institutional opinion formed in consultation with the two senior-most judges in the SC.
    • Third Judges Case (1998):
      • SC on the President’s reference (Article 143) expanded the Collegium to a five-member body, comprising the CJI and four of his senior-most colleagues.

Who Heads the Collegium System?

  • The SC collegium is headed by the CJI (Chief Justice of India) and comprises four other senior most judges of the court.
  • A HC collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court.
  • Names recommended for appointment by a HC collegium reaches the government only after approval by the CJI and the SC collegium.
  • Judges of the higher judiciary are appointed only through the collegium system and the government has a role only after names have been decided by the collegium.

What are the Procedures for Judicial Appointments?

  • For CJI:
    • The President of India appoints the CJI and the other SC judges.
    • As far as the CJI is concerned, the outgoing CJI recommends his successor.
    • In practice, it has been strictly by seniority ever since the supersession controversy of the 1970s.
  • For SC Judges:
    • For other judges of the SC, the proposal is initiated by the CJI.
    • The CJI consults the rest of the Collegium members, as well as the senior-most judge of the court hailing from the High Court to which the recommended person belongs.
    • The consultees must record their opinions in writing and it should form part of the file.
    • The Collegium sends the recommendation to the Law Minister, who forwards it to the Prime Minister to advise the President.
  • For Chief Justice of High Courts:
    • The Chief Justice of the High Court is appointed as per the policy of having Chief Justices from outside the respective States.
    • The Collegium takes the call on the elevation.
    • High Court judges are recommended by a Collegium comprising the CJI and two senior-most judges.
    • The proposal, however, is initiated by the outgoing Chief Justice of the High Court concerned in consultation with two senior-most colleagues.
    • The recommendation is sent to the Chief Minister, who advises the Governor to send the proposal to the Union Law Minister.

What is Critical about the Collegium System?

  • Opaqueness and a lack of transparency.
  • Scope for nepotism.
  • Embroilment in public controversies.
  • Overlooks several talented junior judges and advocates.

What were Attempts to reform the Appointment System?

  • The attempt made to replace it by a ‘National Judicial Appointments Commission’ (through Ninety-ninth Amendment Act, 2014) was struck down by the court in 2015 on the ground that it posed a threat to the independence of the judiciary.

Way Forward

  • Filling up of vacancies is a continuous and collaborative process involving the executive and the judiciary, and there cannot be a time frame for it. However, it is time to think of a permanent, independent body to institutionalise the process with adequate safeguards to preserve the judiciary’s independence guaranteeing judicial primacy but not judicial exclusivity.
  • It should ensure independence, reflect diversity, demonstrate professional competence and integrity.

Retrospective taxation by amending Income tax act:

Why in News?

       The Union Budget 2022-23 brought in some amendments to the Income Tax (IT) Act 1961 that would be effective retrospectively.

What is a Retrospective Tax?

  • A  retrospective tax is one that is charged for transactions in the long past. It can be a new or additional charge on transactions done in the past.
  • Ideally, retrospective tax is to make adjustments when policies in the past and the present are so vastly different that tax paid before under the old policy could be said to have been less. Retrospective tax could correct that situation by charging tax under the existing policy.
  • Retrospective taxation allows a nation to implement a rule to impose a tax on certain products, goods or services and deals and charge companies from a time before the date on which the law is passed.
  • Countries use this form of taxation to rectify any deviations in the taxation policies that, in the past, allowed firms to take benefit from any loophole. It affects companies that had unknowingly or knowingly used the tax rules differently.
  • Not only India, but many other countries like the US, UK, Australia, Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, and Italy have retrospectively taxed firms.

What are the Major Amendments in the Income Tax Act?

What is the Retrospective Change about Cess and Surcharge?

  • Changes:
    • Making a retrospective amendment to the IT Act from 2005-06, the Budget has clarified that cess and surcharge will not be allowed to be claimed as deductions in the form of expenditure, a practice that some companies and businesses were resorting to in the absence of legal clarity.
    • Citing some court rulings over the years that had given benefit to taxpayers in claiming cess as expenditure and not tax, the tax department said the retrospective amendment is being done to correct the anomaly.
    • This amendment will take effect retrospectively from 1st April, 2005 and will accordingly apply in relation to the assessment year 2005-06 and subsequent assessment years.
    • The change is being brought from AY 2005-06 as education cess was brought in for the first time by the Finance act 2004.
  • Significance:
    • The court rulings differentiated between income tax and education cess on income tax, and in absence of a specific disallowance for ‘education cess’, courts had taken a view beneficial for taxpayers in many cases.
    • In order to nullify the effect of such court rulings and to consider such rulings against the intention of the law, a clarificatory amendment has been introduced in the income tax law, providing that any surcharge or education cess on income tax shall not be allowed as business expenditure.

What is a Cess?

  • Cess is a form of tax levied over and above the base tax liability of a taxpayer.
  • Cess is resorted to only when there is a need to meet the particular expenditure for public welfare.
  • Cess is not a permanent source of revenue for the government, and it is discontinued when the purpose of levying it is fulfilled.
  • It can be levied on both indirect and direct taxes.

What is a Surcharge?

  • A surcharge is an extra fee, charge, or tax that is added on to the cost of a good or service, beyond the initially quoted price.
  • It is added to an existing tax and is not included in the stated price of the good or service.
  • It is levied for extra services or to defray the cost of increased commodity pricing.

What are the other Amendments done Retrospectively?

  • Changes:
    • The government has also allowed exemption of the amount received for medical treatment and on account of death due to Covid -19 retrospectively from April 2020.
    • Any sum of money received by an individual, from any person, in respect of any expenditure actually incurred by him on his medical treatment or treatment of any member of his family, in respect of any illness related to Covid-19 subject to such conditions, as may be notified by the Central Government in this behalf, shall not be the income of such a person.
    • It has also allowed exemption for amount received by a member of the family of a deceased person, from the employer of the deceased person (without limit), or from any other person or persons with such money not exceeding Rs 10 lakh, where the cause of death of such person is illness relating to Covid-19, and the payment is received within twelve months from the date of death of such person.
    • Separately, gifts and freebies to doctors shall not be treated as business expenditure under the Income-tax Act.
  • Significance:
    • This has clarified that any expense incurred in providing various benefits in violation of the provisions of Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002 shall be inadmissible under law.
    • This step is likely to discourage pharma companies from giving freebies to medical professionals, and claim these expenses as deductions.

What are Key changes for Questioning Sources of Funding for Companies?

  • Changes:
    • Government has made changes to the IT law, making space for questioning by the tax department to explain the source of funds at the hands of the creditor.
    • A provision has been introduced stating that the source of funding for loan and borrowings for a recipient will be treated as explained only if the source of funds is also explained in the hands of the creditor.
  • Significance:
    • This could have an impact on funding of businesses, especially startups, if the creditor is not a venture capital fund, a venture capital company registered with SEBI.
    • Earlier, if any company used to have bogus entries, the taxpayer would just provide details such as PAN and other financial details of the creditor and that was enough for the tax department.
    • Now, it’s upon the recipient to prove that it’s the right source of income and they had the right net worth to provide this amount.

GS PAPER - 3

Parlimentary Report on Police Reforms:

Why in News?

       Recently, the Parliamentary standing committee on home affairs has tabled a report on Police- training, modernisation and reforms. The report highlights the number of reforms required and challenges faced by the Police forces.

What are the Key Points of the Report?

  • Addressing Women Under-representation: The report asked the Centre to advise states and Union Territories to create a road map for ensuring 33% representation of women in police while expressing anguish over their underrepresentation.
  • The appointment of women in police may be done by creating additional posts rather than converting the vacant posts of men.
  • Ensuring higher women representation will also help in improving the police-population ratio.
  • States and union territories should assign important challenging duties to women instead of those of inconsequence. It recommended at least one all-women police station in each district.
  • Managing Stress of Police Personnels: It recommended offline and online modules to help them de-stress through yoga, exercises, counseling and treatment.
  • Separation of Law Enforcement & Investigation Wing: It called for the separation of investigation from law and order to maintain accountability and increase police autonomy in probing crimes.
  • This will lead to specialisation and professionalism, speed up the investigation and secure the convictions.
  • Virtual Trails: The panel backed virtual trials, particularly those involving high-risk groups, via video conferencing.
  • It will help in dedicating less police force for escorting under-trial prisoners to courts and also save resources.
  • Addressing Poor Conditions of Police: The committee expressed disappointment over the poor housing satisfaction levels among police personnel and recommended an allocation of funds for housing.
  • In the 21st century India, there are police stations without telephones or proper wireless connectivity especially in many sensitive states like Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Punjab.
  • People-friendly Policing: Policing system should be transparent, independent, accountable and people-friendly.
  • Lax Implementation of Law: The committee expressed concern that even after 15 years, only 17 States have either enacted the Model Police Act, 2006, or amended the existing Act.
  • The progress in police reforms has been slow.
  • It recommends that the MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) may put the information in public domain about the states that are leading and lagging in the modernization process.
  • Community Policing: Community policing should be promoted, as it involves a cooperative effort between police and the communities where both can work together to solve the crime and crime-related problems.
  • Border Police Training: Advise the state police and central armed police forces to train and liaison with people living in the border areas for gathering intelligence on infiltration, use of drones and drug trafficking.
  • Pool of Anti-drone Technology: For drones, the panel directed the MHA to create a central pool of anti-drone technology “at the earliest” and give its access to all states and Union Territories.
  • Under-Utilisation of Funds: The committee observed that the under-utilisation of funds by the states for police modernisation needs to be identified.
  • It recommended that the MHA should consider constituting a committee which can visit the underperforming states and assist them to utilize the funds in a planned manner.

What is the Meaning of Police Reforms?

  • Police reforms aim to transform the values, culture, policies and practices of police organizations.
  • It envisages police to perform their duties with respect for democratic values, human rights and the rule of law.
  • It also aims to improve how the police interact with other parts of the security sector, such as the courts and departments of corrections, or executive, parliamentary or independent authorities with management or oversight responsibilities.
  • Police come under the state list of schedule 7 of the Indian constitution.

Committees/Commissions on Police Reforms

What are the Issues Concerning Police Forces?

  • Colonial Legacy: The Police Act of 1861 was legislated by the British right after the revolt of 1857 to bring in efficient administration of police in the country and to prevent any future revolts.
  • Accountability to the Political Executives vs Operational Freedom: The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC-2007) has noted that political control has been abused in the past by the political executive to unduly influence police personnel, and have them serve personal or political interests.
  • Psychological Pressure: In the Indian police force, the lower ranks of police personnel are often verbally abused by their superiors or they work in inhuman conditions.
  • Public Perception: The Second ARC has noted that police-public relations is in an unsatisfactory State because people view the police as corrupt, inefficient, politically partisan and unresponsive.
  • Overburdened Force: While the sanctioned police strength was 181 police per lakh persons in 2016, the actual strength was 137 police.
  • This is way too low when compared with the United Nations’ recommended standard of 222 police per lakh persons.
  • Constabulary Related Issues: The constabulary constitutes 86% of the State police forces and has wide-ranging responsibilities.
  • Infrastructural Issues: Modern policing requires strong communication support, state-of the-art or modern weapons, and a high degree of mobility.
  • However CAG audit reports of year 2015-16, have found shortages in weaponry with state police forces.
  • Also, the Bureau of Police Research and Development has also noted a 30.5% deficiency in stock of required vehicles with the state forces.

What Other Reforms can be Brought?

  • Modernisation of Police Forces: The Modernisation of Police Forces (MPF) scheme was initiated in 1969-70 and has undergone several revisions over the years.
  • However, there is a need to fully utilize the finances sanctioned by the government.
    • MPF scheme envisages:
      • Procurement of modern weapons
      • Mobility of police forces
      • Logistics support, upgradation of police wireless, etc
      • A National satellite network
  • Need For Political Will: The Supreme Court in the landmark Prakash Singh case (2006) gave seven directives where considerable work in police reforms is still needed.
  • However, due to the lack of political will these directives were not implemented in letter and spirit in many states.
  • Revamping Criminal Justice System: Along with Police reforms, there is a need to reform the criminal justice system too. In this context, the recommendations of the Menon and Malimath Committees can be implemented. Some of the key recommendations are as follows:
    • Creation of a fund to compensate victims who turn hostile from the pressure of culprits.
    • Setting up separate authority at the national level to deal with crimes threatening the country’s security.
    • A complete revamp of the entire criminal procedure system.

One Ocean Summit:

Why in News?

      Recently, the Prime Minister addressed the high-level segment of the One Ocean Summit.

  • The summit was organised by France in Brest, France in cooperation with the United nation and the World bank.
  • The summit was addressed by various other Heads of State and Governments from countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, Canada among others.

What is the Importance of Oceans?

  • The ocean covers more than 70% of the surface of our planet, yet too often remains on the sidelines of major European and international events.
  • The ocean is a regulator of major environmental balances, and climate in particular, a provider of resources, an important enabler of trade, and an essential link between countries and human communities.
  • However, it is now seriously threatened by numerous pressures, such as the effects of climate change pollution or the overexploitation of marine resources.
  • In an effort to mobilise the international community and take tangible action to mitigate such pressures on the ocean, France has decided to organise a One Planet Summit dedicated to the ocean.

What is One Ocean Summit?

  • The goal of the One Ocean Summit is to raise the collective level of ambition of the international community on marine issues.
  • Commitments will be made towards combating illegal fishing, decarbonising shipping and reducing plastic pollution Will also focus on efforts to improve governance of the high seas and coordinating international scientific research.

What was India’s Stand at the Summit?

  • India has always been a maritime civilization. India’s ancient scriptures and literature talk about the gifts of the oceans including marine life.
  • India’s security and prosperity are linked to oceans. India’s ”Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative” contains marine resources as a key pillar.
  • India supports the French initiative of a ”High Ambition Coalition on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction”.
  • The coalition gathers parties which are committed, at the highest political level, to achieve an ambitious outcome of the ongoing negotiations on a Treaty of the High Seas (“the implementing agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction”), under the auspices of the United Nations.
  • The “BBNJ Treaty”, also known as the “Treaty of the High Seas”, is an international agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, currently under negotiation at the United Nations.
  • This new instrument is being developed within the framework of the United Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the main international agreement governing human activities at sea.
  • India is committed to eliminating single-use plastic. India recently undertook a nation-wide awareness campaign to clean plastic and other waste from coastal areas.
  • Three hundred thousand young people collected almost 13 tons of plastic waste.
  • India will be happy to join France in launching a global initiative on single use plastics.
  • Recently, the Ministry Of Environment Forest And Climate Change has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 which prohibit specific single-use plastic items which have “low utility and high littering potential” by 2022.
  • India has also directed its Navy to contribute100 ship-days this year to cleaning plastic waste from the seas.

Are there any Other Global initiatives to Protect Oceans?

  • United Nations Ocean Conference: The 2017 UN’s Ocean Conference sought to mobilise action for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources.
  • Next conference is scheduled to be held in 2022.
  • Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development: The UN has proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) to support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development of the Ocean.
  • World Oceans Day: June 8th is World Oceans Day, the United Nations day for celebrating the role of the oceans in our everyday life and inspiring action to protect the ocean and sustainably use marine resources.
  • India- Norway Ocean Dialogue: In 2019, the Indian and Norwegian governments agreed to work more closely on oceans by signing a MoU and establishing the India-Norway Ocean Dialogue.
  • India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI): It is an open, non-treaty based initiative for countries to work together for cooperative and collaborative solutions to common challenges in the region.
  • IPOI draws on existing regional architecture and mechanisms to focus on seven pillars: Maritime Security, Maritime Ecology, Maritime Resources, Capacity Building and Resource Sharing, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Science, Technology and Academic Cooperation and Trade Connectivity and Maritime Transport.
  • GloLitter Partnerships Project: It is launched by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UNs (FAO) and initial funding from the Government of Norway. It is aimed to prevent and reduce marine plastic litter from shipping and fisheries

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ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY – 11 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

  • Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana
  • ASEN
  • Operation AAHT

GS Paper 3:

  • Volatile Organic Molecules (VOC)& EVs
  • India’s Diary and Livestock sector
  • Nuclear Fusion Energy

GS PAPER - 2

Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana:

Why in News?

Recently, the Union Minister of State for Finance provided information about the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) in the Rajya Sabha.

  • The national-level targets under the scheme have been consistently met since its inception, except for FY 2020-21 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

What is PMMY?

  • The government launched it in 2015 for providing loans up to Rs.10 lakh to the non-corporate, non-farm small/micro-enterprises.
  • It provides funding to the non-corporate small business sector through various last-mile financial institutions like Banks, Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) and Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs).
  • MUDRA, which stands for Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency Ltd., is a government’s financial institution. It does not lend directly to micro-entrepreneurs/individuals.
  • MUDRA has created three products, i.e. ‘Shishu’, ‘Kishore’ and ‘Tarun’, as per the growth and funding needs of the beneficiary micro-units.
    • Shishu: Covering loans up to Rs. 50,000.
    • Kishore: Covering loans above Rs. 50,000 and up to Rs. 5 lakh.
    • Tarun: Covering loans above Rs. 5 lakh and up to Rs. 10 lakh.

What are the achievements of the scheme?

  • Over 32.53 crore loans involving a sanctioned amount of Rs. 17.32 lakh crore have been extended under PMMY since its inception in April 2015.
  • Loans have been given to disadvantaged sections of society such as women entrepreneurs, SC/ST/OBC borrowers, Minority community borrowers, etc. The focus has also been on new entrepreneurs.
  • As per a survey conducted by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, PMMY helped in generating 1.12 crore net additional employment from 2015 to 2018.
    • Out of the 1.12 crore of estimated increase in employment, women accounted for 69 lakh (62%).

What are the steps taken for the improvement of the Scheme?

  • Provision for online applications through psbloansin59minutes and udyamimitra portal. Some Public Sector Banks (PSBs) have put end-to-end digital lending for automated sanctions under PMMY.
  • Intensive publicity campaigns by PSBs and Mudra Ltd. for increased visibility of the scheme amongst the stakeholders.
  • Nomination of Mudra Nodal Officers in PSBs.
  • Periodic monitoring of the performance of PSBs concerning PMMY etc

ASEN:

Context:

India is in discussion with the 10-nation block ASEN for initiating the review of the FTA (free-trade agreement) in goods between the two regions to seek more market access for domestic products.

 Free Trade Agreement (FTA):

  • It is a pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them.
  • Under a free trade policy, goods and services can be bought and sold across international borders with little or no government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions to inhibit their exchange.
  • The concept of free trade is the opposite of trade protectionism or economic isolationism.

 What is ASEAN?

  The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is a regional organization which was established to promote political and social stability amid rising tensions among the Asia-Pacific’s post-colonial states.

The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.

ASEAN Secretariat – Indonesia, Jakarta.

Genesis:

Established in 1967 with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by its founding fathers.

Founding Fathers of ASEAN are: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Ten Members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

 Significance of ASEAN for India:

  1. Against the backdrop of aggressive moves by China, including the Ladakh standoff, India placed the ASEAN at the centre of India’s Act East policy and held that a cohesive and responsive ASEAN is essential for security and growth for all in the region.
  2. ASEAN is necessary for the success of the Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) Vision.
  3. The region is significant for diversification and resilience of supply chains for post-Covid-19 economic recovery.

It is India’s 4th largest trading partner with about USD 86.9 billion in trade.

Operation AAHT:

Why in News?

   Recently, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) has launched a nationwide operation to curb human trafficking.

  • As part of “Operation AAHT”, special teams will be deployed on all long-distance trains/routes with a focus on rescuing victims, particularly women and children, from the clutches of traffickers.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau registers about 2,200 cases of Human Trafficking cases on an average each year.

What is Operation AAHT?

  • The Indian Railways, which transported over 23 million passengers each day (pre-pandemic), is the largest, fastest and most reliable carrier for suspects who trafficked scores of women and children.
  • Under Operation AAHT, the infrastructure and intelligence network of the force could be utilised to collect, collate and analyse clues on victims, source, route, destination, popular trains used by suspects, the identity of carriers/agents, kingpins etc and shared with other law-enforcing agencies.
  • Under this, the RPF could act as a bridge cutting across States to assist the local police in the mission to curb the menace.
  • Also, cyber cells would start patrolling the web/social media to look for digital footprints of Human Trafficking and the focus would be more on trains originating from districts bordering Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

What is Human Trafficking?

  • Human trafficking, also called trafficking in persons, form of modern-day slavery involving the illegal transport of individuals by force or deception for the purpose of labour, sexual exploitation, or activities in which others benefit financially.
  • Human Trafficking, especially of women and children, for sexual exploitation, forced marriage, domestic servitude, organ transplant, drug peddling, etc is an organised crime and the most abominable violation of human rights.
  • There is a popular understanding that trafficking is happening a lot more between countries but a report by UNODC highlights that close to 60% of trafficking happens internally in countries.
  • Situation in India: The most affected state presently is West Bengal followed by Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Assam.

GS PAPER - 3

Volatile Organic Molecules (VOC) & EVs:

Why in News?

Recently, a study conducted by Indian Institute of Science Education and Research revealed that India can slash emissions of Volatile Organic Molecules (VOC) by 76% in the next eight years by swapping all two- and three-wheelers with electric vehicles and all diesel-fuelled ones with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

  • Gases escaping out of a vehicle’s exhaust account for 65-80% of an automobile’s emissions.
  • India is home to 14 out of the top 20 most polluted cities globally. Around 1.67 million deaths were linked to air pollution in 2019. The country lost 1.36% of its gross domestic product the same year.
  • Therefore, adopting electric vehicles can help India achieve a cleaner future.

What are Volatile Organic Molecules?

  • VOCs are carbon-containing chemicals released by petrol and diesel vehicles. They impact air quality and human health.
  • However, VOCs can have a natural origin, too.
  • Plants emit these chemicals to attract pollinators, defend themselves from pests and predators and adapt to environmental stress.
  • Effect of VOCs on Health: VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, damage body organs and cause
  • Long-term exposure to VOCs is not good because the majority of the VOCs are carcinogenic (cancer-causing).
  • It is also linked to medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.
  • Black carbonis linked to health problems such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease, cancer and congenital disabilities. It also contributes to climate change.
  • Positive Feedback Loop: VOCs can drive the formation of other dangerous pollutants.
  • For instance, they react with sunlight and nitrogen dioxide to form ground-level ozone.
  • VOCs also trigger the formation of Particulate Matter (PM2.5),a pollutant that reaches deep into the lungs, affecting their normal functioning.
  • They react in the air to produce secondary organic aerosols, minute particles suspended in the air.
  • Issues Related to VOCs: Human-made VOCs are a cause for concern, yet they don’t draw enough attention.
  • Benzene, a chemical that induces cancer, is the only VOC included in the National ambient air-quality standards. The other pollutants under ambient air-quality standards considered are PM10, PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, ammonia, lead, nickel and benzo(a)pyrene.

What are Electric Vehicles?

  • An EV operates on an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine and has a battery instead of a fuel tank.
  • In general, EVs have low running costs as they have fewer moving parts and are also environmentally friendly.
  • In India, the fuel cost for an EV is approximately 80 paisa per kilometre. Contrast this with the cost of petrol which is today more than Rs 100 per litre in Indian cities, or Rs 7-8 per kilometre to operate a petrol-based vehicle.

What are Associated Challenges with EVs?

  • Lack of a Stable Policy For EV Production: EV production is a capital intensive sector requiring long term planning to break even and profit realisation, uncertainty in government policies related to EV production discourages investment in the industry.
  • Technological Challenges: India is technologically deficient in the production of electronics that form the backbone of the EV industry, such as batteries, semiconductors, controllers, etc.
  • India does not have any known reserves of lithium and cobalt which are required for battery production.
  • Lack of Associated Infrastructural Support: The lack of clarity over AC versus DC charging stations, grid stability and range anxiety (fear that batteries will soon run out of power) are other factors that hinder the growth of the EV industry.
  • Lack of skilled workers: EVs have higher servicing costs and higher levels of skills is needed for servicing. India lacks dedicated training courses for such skill development.

What are Central Government Initiatives on EVs?

  • Government has set a target of EV making up 30% of new sales of cars and two-wheelers by 2030.
  • To build a sustainable EV ecosystem, initiatives like National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) and Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) have been launched.
  • NEMMP was launched in 2013 with an aim to achieve national fuel security by promoting hybrid and EVs in the country. There is an ambitious target to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and EVs year on year from 2020 onwards.
  • FAME India was launched in 2015 with the objective to support hybrid/EV market development and manufacturing ecosystem. The scheme has 4 focus areas viz. technology development, demand creation, pilot projects and charging infrastructure.
  • Organisations like Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Department of Heavy Industry, Automotive Research Association of India are devising design and manufacturing standards of EVs, Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSEs) and charging infrastructure to smoothen the advent of in-house production of EVs.

What should be the Way Forward for EVs Adoption in India?

  • Increasing R&D in EVs: The Indian market needs encouragement for indigenous technologies that are suited for India from both strategic and economic standpoint.
  • Since investment in local research and development is necessary to bring prices down, it makes sense to leverage local universities and existing industrial hubs.
  • India should work with countries like the UK and synergise EV development.
  • Sensitising Public: Breaking away the old norms and establishing a new consumer behaviour is always a challenge. Thus, a lot of sensitisation and education is needed, in order to bust several myths and promote EVs within the Indian market.
  • Viable Electricity Pricing: Given current electricity prices, home charging may also be an issue if the generation is from thermal power plants run on coal.
  • Thus, a shift in the electricity generation landscape as a whole is what is required to facilitate the growth of electric cars.
  • In this context, India is on track to become one of the largest solar and energy storage markets by 2025.
  • A combination of solar-powered grid solutions that are organised with a general improvement in grid resilience will ensure adequate charging infrastructure for EV’s being a green option.
  • Creating the Closed-Loop Mobility Ecosystem: Subsidising manufacturing for an electric supply chain will certainly improve EV development in India.
  • Along with charging infrastructure, the establishment of a robust supply chain will also be needed.
  • Further, recycling stations for batteries will need to recover the metals from batteries used in electrification to create the closed-loop required for the shift to electric cars to be an environmentally-sound decision

India’s Dairy and Livestock sector:

Why in News?

Union Budget 2022-23 is expected to boost the dairying and livestock sector with a host of measures to make it sustainable amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

What is the Current State of the Dairy and Livestock Sector?

  • Dairy is the single-largest agricommodity in India. It contributes 5% to the national economy and employs 80 million dairy farmers directly.
  • A revival in economic activities, increasing per capita consumption of milk and milk products, changing dietary preferences and rising urbanisation in India, has driven the dairy industry to grow by 9-11% in 2021-22.
  • The livestock sector has grown at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8.15% over the last five years ending 2020.
  • Growth in the liquid milk segment, which accounts for over half of the dairy industry, is likely to remain stable (6-7%).
  • The organised dairy segment, which accounts for 26-30% of industry (by value), has seen faster growth, compared to the unorganised segment.

What are the Initiatives taken in the Budget 2022-23 for this Sector?

  • Infrastructure Development under Vibrant Villages Programme:
    • Border villages in northern India with a sparse population and limited connectivity, have been covered under the ‘New Vibrant Villages Programme’ in the new budget.
    • Some 95% of livestock farmers are concentrated in rural India. Hence, infrastructure development under the Vibrant Villages Programme will play a significant role in enhancing market access for these livestock farmers.
    • New Vibrant Villages Programme announced in the budget aims to improve social and financial infrastructure in remote habitations, primarily along the border with China, and will be an improved version of the existing border area development programme.
  • Reducing Alternate Minimum Tax:
    • To provide a level playing field between co-operative societies and companies, alternate minimum tax has been reduced from 18.5% to 15%.
    • Government has also proposed to reduce the surcharge on co-operative societies to 7% from 12% at present for those having total income of more than Rs. 1 crore and up to Rs. 10 crore.
    • This would help enhance the income of cooperative societies and its members who are mostly from rural and farming communities.
  • Enhanced allocation for Central Sector Schemes:
    • Allocation for the Rashtriya Gokul Mission and National Programme for Dairy Development  has been increased by 20% in 2022-23.
    • It is expected to help in increasing the productivity of indigenous cattle and quality milk production.
    • Allocation for the livestock sector has been increased by more than 40% for 2022-23 and the enhanced allocation for central sector schemes by more than 48% shows commitment by the government for the growth of livestock and dairy farmers.
  • Enhancement in allocation for Livestock Health and Disease Control:
    • An almost 60% enhancement in allocation for livestock health and disease control for 2022-23 over the previous year will ensure healthier livestock.
  • Incentivising Digital Banking:
    • Incentivising digital banking, digital payments and fintech innovations will create a ripple effect in the livestock sector through greater transparency by streamlining payments during milk procurement.
    • A completely paperless, e-bill system will be launched by ministries for procurement.

What are the Current issues with the Sector?

  • Dairy analogues, plant-based products and adulteration pose a major challenge and threat to the dairy industry.
  • Shortage of fodder resources and ineffective control of animal diseases.
  • Absence of field oriented conservation strategy for indigenous breeds.
  • Lack of skills and quality services to farmers for improving productivity and improper infrastructure to support the sector.

What are the related Schemes for the Sector?

  • Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF)
  • National Animal Disease Control Programme
  • Rashtriya Gokul Mission
  • National Artificial Insemination Programme
  • National Livestock Mission

Way Forward

  • There is a need to increase the productivity of animals, also ensuring better health care and breeding facilities and management of dairy animals. This can reduce the cost of milk production.
  • Awareness on clean milk production and various schemes by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying and the new Ministry of Cooperatives will help dairy farmers evolve in the future.

Nuclear Fusion Energy:

Why in News?

      Recently, the Scientists in the United Kingdom said they have achieved a new milestone in producing nuclear fusion energy, or imitating the way energy is produced in the Sun.

  • Energy by nuclear fusion is one of mankind’s long standing quests as it promises to be low carbon, safer than how nuclear energy is now produced and, with an efficiency that can technically exceed a 100%.
  • One kilogram(kg) of fusion fuel contains about 10 million times as much energy as a kg of coal, oil or gas.

What was the Location of Experiment?

  • The JET (Joint European Torus facility) site is the largest operational one of its kind in the world.
  • The energy was produced in a machine called a tokamak, a doughnut-shaped apparatus.
  • A tokamak is a machine that confines a plasma using magnetic fields in a donut shape that scientists call a torus.
  • Deuterium and tritium, which are isotopes of hydrogen, were heated to temperatures 10 times hotter than the centre of the sun to create plasma.
  • This was held in place using superconductor electromagnets as it spins around, fuses and releases tremendous energy as heat.
  • The record and scientific data from these crucial experiments are a major boost for ITER, the larger and more advanced version of the JET.

What is Nuclear Fusion?

  • Nuclear fusion is defined as the combining of several small nuclei into one large nucleus with the subsequent release of huge amounts of energy.
  • It is the opposite reaction of fission, where heavy isotopes are split apart.
  • Harnessing fusion, the process that powers the Sun, could provide a limitless, clean energy source.
  • In the sun, the extreme pressure produced by its immense gravity creates the conditions for fusion to happen.
  • Fusion reactions take place in a state of matter called plasma. Plasma is a hot, charged gas made of positive ions and free-moving electrons that has unique properties distinct from solids, liquids and gases.
  • At high temperatures, electrons are ripped from atom’s nuclei and become a plasma or an ionised state of matter. Plasma is also known as the fourth state of matter.

What are Advantages of Nuclear Fusion?

  • Abundant energy: Fusing atoms together in a controlled way releases nearly four million times more energy than a chemical reaction such as the burning of coal, oil or gas and four times as much as nuclear fission reactions (at equal mass).
  • Fusion has the potential to provide the kind of baseload energy needed to provide electricity to the cities and the industries.
  • Sustainability: Fusion fuels are widely available and nearly inexhaustible. Deuterium can be distilled from all forms of water, while tritium will be produced during the fusion reaction as fusion neutrons interact with lithium.
  • No CO: Fusion doesn’t emit harmful toxins like carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Its major by-product is helium: an inert, non-toxic gas.
  • No long-lived radioactive waste: Nuclear fusion reactors produce no high activity, long-lived nuclear waste.
  • Limited risk of proliferation: Fusion doesn’t employ fissile materials like uranium and plutonium (Radioactive tritium is neither a fissile nor a fissionable material).
  • No risk of meltdown: It is difficult enough to reach and maintain the precise conditions necessary for fusion—if any disturbance occurs, the plasma cools within seconds and the reaction stops.

What are Other International Initiatives on Nuclear Fusion Energy?

  • International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Assembly::It aims to build the world’s largest tokamak to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy. The ITER members include China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
  • China’s Artificial Sun: The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) device designed by China replicates the nuclear fusion process carried out by the sun.

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ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY – 10 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

  • SC on Death penalty
  • International Court of Justice (ICJ)
  • Rule and Power of the Governor

GS Paper 3:

  • Crop Diversification
  • Farm Loan Waiver

GS Paper 2

SC on Death penalty:

Why in News?

     Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) commuted the death sentence of a man, convicted of the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl, to life imprisonment.

  • The judgment may become a significant precedent to the anti-death penalty cause.

What was SC’s Ruling in the Current Case?

  • SC commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment, with the rider that he shall not be entitled to “premature release or remission before undergoing actual imprisonment” for a period of 30 years.
  • SC advised the trial judges that they should not be swayed in favour of death penalty merely because of the dreadful nature of the crime and its harmful impact on the society. They should equally consider the mitigating factors in favour of life imprisonment.
  • SC referred to the evolution of the principles of penology and said that penology had grown to accommodate the philosophy of “preservation of human life”.
  • Penology is a sub-component of criminology that deals with the philosophy and practice of various societies in their attempts to repress criminal activities, and satisfy public opinion via an appropriate treatment regime for persons convicted of criminal offences.
  • SC noted that that though capital punishment serves as a deterrent and a “response to the society’s call for appropriate punishment in appropriate cases”,
  • The principles of penology have “evolved to balance the other obligations of the society, i.e., of preserving the human life, be it of accused, unless termination thereof is inevitable and is to serve the other societal causes and collective conscience of society”.

What is a Death Penalty?

  • Capital punishment, also called the death penalty, is the execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offence. It is the highest penalty awardable to an accused. Generally, it is awarded in extremely severe cases of murder, rapes, treason etc.
  • The death penalty is seen as the most suitable punishment and effective deterrent for the worst crimes. Those who oppose it, however, see it as inhumane. Thus, the morality of the death penalty is debatable and many criminologists and socialists all across the globe, have been long demanding abolition of the death penalty.

What are the Arguments in Favour of the Death Penalty?

  • Retribution: One of the key principles of retribution is that people should get what they deserve in proportion to the severity of their crime.
  • This argument states that real justice requires people to suffer for their wrongdoing and to suffer in a way appropriate for the crime.
  • Deterrence: Capital punishment is often justified with the argument that by executing convicted murderers, we will deter would-be murderers from killing people.
  • It is often argued that the death penalty provides closure for victims’ families.

What are the Arguments Against the Death Penalty?

  • Deterrence Ineffective: The statistical evidence doesn’t confirm that deterrence works. Some of those executed may not have been capable of being deterred because of mental illness or defect.
  • Death has been prescribed in rape cases since 2013 (Sec. 376A of IPC), still, rapes continue to happen and in fact, the brutality of rapes has increased manifold. This compels one to think of the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime.
  • Execution of the Innocent: The most common argument against capital punishment is that sooner or later, innocent people may get killed, because of mistakes or flaws in the justice system.
  • According to Amnesty International: As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.
  • Death has been abolished as a form of punishment in most of the developed countries.
  • No Rehabilitatiom: Capital punishment doesn’t rehabilitate the prisoner and return them to society.

What is the Status of Death Penalty in the Indian Context?

  • Prior to the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act (Cr PC) of 1955, the death penalty was the rule and life imprisonment an exception in India.
  • Further, the courts were bound to give an explanation for awarding a lighter penalty than death for capital offences.
  • After the amendment of 1955 courts were at liberty to grant either death or life imprisonment.
  • As per Section 354 (3) of the Cr PC, 1973 the courts are required to state reasons in writing for awarding the maximum penalty.
  • The situation has been reversed and a life sentence is the rule and death penalty an exception in capital offences.
  • Moreover, despite a global moratorium against the death penalty by the United Nation, India retains the death penalty.
  • India is of view that allowing criminals guilty of having committed intentional, cold-blooded, deliberate and brutal murders to escape with a lesser punishment will deprive the law of its effectiveness and result in travesty of justice.
  • In concurrence of this, a proposal for the scrapping of the death penalty was rejected by the Law Commission in its 35th report 1967.
  • In India as per official statistics, 720 executions have taken place in India after it became independent in the year 1947, which is a minuscule fraction of the people who were awarded death penalty by the trial courts.
  • In the majority of the cases, death was commuted to life imprisonment and some were acquitted by the higher courts.

What are the SC’s Previous Rulings on on the Death Penalty?

  • Jagmohan Singh v. State of UP 1973 case: SC held that according to Article 21deprivation of life is constitutionally permissible if that is done according to the procedure established by law.
  • Thus the death sentence imposed after a trial in accordance with legally established procedures under Cr.PC and the Indian Evidence Act 1872 is not unconstitutional under Article 21.
  • Rajendra Prasad v. State of UP 1979 case: SC held that, if the murderous operation of a criminal jeopardizes social security in a persistent, planned and perilous fashion then his enjoyment of fundamental rights may be rightly annihilated.
  • Bachan Singh v. the State of Punjab 1980 case: SC propounded the dictum of ‘rarest of rare cases’ according to which death penalty is not to be awarded except in the ‘rarest of rare cases’ when the alternative option is unquestionably foreclosed.
    • Rarest of Rare Cases can be described:
      • When the murder is committed in an extremely brutal, ridiculous, diabolical, revolting, or reprehensible manner so as to awaken intense and extreme indignation of the community.
      • When total depravity and cruelty are the motives behind a murder.
      • Machhi Singh v. State of Punjab 1983 case: The Supreme Court laid down certain considerations for determining whether a case falls under the category of rarest of rare cases or not.

What should be the Way Forward in Such Cases?

  • Instead of merely enhancing punishment, tackling crimes against women and children requires broader social reforms, sustained governance efforts and strengthening investigative and reporting mechanisms.

International Court of Justice (ICJ):

Context:

         Delivering its judgement, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has awarded the DRC $225 million for damage to persons, which includes loss of life, rape, recruitment of child soldiers and displacement of civilians.

  • Now, Uganda must pay the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) $325 million in reparations related to the brutal conflict between the two nations from 1998 to 2003.

 What’s the issue?

          The DRC initially filed the case with the ICJ in June 1999, citing acts of armed aggression perpetrated by Uganda on its territory “in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and of the Charter of the Organization of African Unity.”

  • At the height of the war, more than nine African countries were drawn into the fighting.
  • The Court ruled in December 2005 that Uganda had to make reparation to the DRC, but the sides could not reach agreement. 

About ICJ:

  • ICJ was established in 1945 by the United Nations charter and started working in April 1946.
  • It is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, situated at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).
  • Unlike the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (USA).
  • It settles legal disputes between States and gives advisory opinions in accordance with international law, on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.

 Structure:

  • The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. These organs vote simultaneously but separately.
  • In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies.
  • In order to ensure a measure of continuity, one third of the Court is elected every three years and Judges are eligible for re-election.
  • ICJ is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.

 The 15 judges of the Court are distributed in following regions:

  1. Three from Africa.
  2. Two from Latin America and Caribbean.
  3. Three from Asia.
  4. Five from Western Europe and other states.
  5. Two from Eastern Europe.

 Independence of judges:

       Unlike other organs of international organizations, the Court is not composed of representatives of governments. Members of the Court are independent judges whose first task, before taking up their duties, is to make a solemn declaration in open court that they will exercise their powers impartially and conscientiously.

Jurisdiction and Functioning:

  • ICJ acts as a world court with two fold jurisdiction i.e. legal disputes between States submitted to it by them (contentious cases) and requests for advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by United Nations organs and specialized agencies (advisory proceedings).
  • Only States which are members of the United Nations and which have become parties to the Statute of the Court or which have accepted its jurisdiction under certain conditions, are parties to contentious cases.
  • The judgment is final, binding on the parties to a case and without appeal (at the most it may be subject to interpretation or, upon the discovery of a new fact, revision).

Rule and Power of the Governor:

  • Why in News?

       The Governor acts in ‘Dual Capacity’ as the Constitutional head of the state and as the representative of the Union government.

  • In recent years, the bitterness between states and Governors has been largely about the selection of the party to form a government, deadline for proving majority, sitting on Bills, and passing negative remarks on the state administration.
  • Due to this, Governor is referred to with negative terms like an agent of the Centre, Puppet and rubber stamps.

What are Constitutional Provisions Related to the Governor?

  • Article 153 says that there shall be a Governor for each State. One person can be appointed as Governor for two or more States.
  • A Governor is appointed by the President and is a nominee of the Central Government.
  • It is stated that the Governor has a dual role.
  • He is the constitutional head of the state, bound by the advice of his Council of Ministers (CoM).
  • He functions as a vital link between the Union Government and the State Government.
  • Articles 157 and 158 specify eligibility requirements for the post of governor.
  • Governor has the power to grantpardons, reprieves, etc. (Article 161).
  • There is a CoM with the CM at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions, except some conditions for discretion. (Article 163)
  • The Governor appoints the Chief Minister and other Ministers (Article 164).
  • Governor assents, withholds assent, or reserves the bill for the consideration of the President passed by the Legislative Assembly (Article 200).
  • Governors may promulgate the Ordinances under certain circumstances (Article 213).

What are the Friction Points in Governor-State Relations?

  • Governor is envisaged as an apolitical head who must act on the advice of the council of ministers. However, the Governor enjoys certain discretionary powers granted under the Constitution. For example,
  • Giving or withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature,
  • Determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority, or
  • Which party must be called first to do so, generally after a hung verdict in an election.
  • There are no provisions laid down for the manner in which the Governor and the state must engage publicly when there is a difference of opinion.
  • The Governor has a 5-year tenure, he can remain in office only until the pleasure of the President.
  • In 2001, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, held that the Governor owes his appointment and his continuation to the Union.
  • There is the apprehension that he is likely to act in accordance with the instructions received from the Union Council of Ministers.
  • In the Constitution, there are no guidelines for exercise of the Governor’s powers, including for appointing a CM or dissolving the Assembly.
  • There is no limit set for how long a Governor can withhold assent to a Bill.
  • The Governor sends a report to the centre which forms the basis of the Union cabinet’s recommendations to the President for invoking Article 356 (President’s Rule).

What Reforms have been Suggested?

  • On Appointment and Removal of Governor:
    • The “Punchhi commission – 2010” recommended that there should be a provision for the impeachment of the governor by the state legislature.
    • The state chief minister should have a say in the governor’s appointment.
  • On the Use of Article 356:
    • The “Punchhi commission – 2010” recommended that Articles 355 & 356 be amended.
    • The Sarkaria Commission (1988) recommended that Article 356 should be used in very rare cases when it becomes unavoidable to restore the breakdown of constitutional machinery in the State.
    • Recommendations have also been given by the Administrative Reforms Commission (1968), Rajamannar Committee (1971) and Justice V.Chelliah Commission (2002).
  • On Dismissal of State Government under Article 356:
    • S.R. Bommai Judgment (1994): The case put an end to the arbitrary dismissal of State governments by a hostile Central government.
    • The verdict ruled that the floor of the Assembly is the only forum that should test the majority of the government of the day, and not the subjective opinion of the Governor.
  • On Discretionary Powers:
    • The Supreme Court in the Nabam Rebia judgment (2016) ruled that the exercise of Governor’s discretion Article 163 is limited and his choice of action should not be arbitrary or fanciful.

Way Forward

  • Strengthening of Federalism: In order to check misuse of the office of governor, there is a need to strengthen federal setup in India.
  • In this regard, the Inter-State council and the role of Rajya Sabha as the chamber of federalism must be strengthened.
  • Reform the Method of Appointment of Governor: The appointment can be made from a panel prepared by the state legislature and actual appointing authority should be the Inter-state Council, not the central government.
  • Code of Conduct for Governor: This ‘Code of Conduct’ should lay down certain ‘norms and principles’ which should guide the exercise of the governor’s ‘discretion’ and his powers which he is entitled to use and exercise on his judgement.

GS Paper 3

Crop Diversification:

Why in News?

           In the annual Economic Survey ,the Department of Economic Affairs said that there is an urgent need for Crop Diversification in view of the severe water stress in areas where paddy, wheat and sugarcane are grown as well as to increase oil seed production and reduce dependency on imports of cooking oil.

What is it?

  • Crop diversification refers to the addition of new crops or cropping systems to agricultural production on a particular farm taking into account the different returns from value-added crops with complementary marketing opportunities.
  • Cropping System: It refers to the crops, crop sequences and management techniques used on a particular agricultural field over a period of years.
  • Types: Major cropping systems in India are sequential-cropping, monocropping, intercropping, relay Cropping, mixed-cropping and alley cropping.
  • Many farmers also use the mixed crop-livestock system to increase their standards of living and income.
  • Animal husbandry or Animal Agriculture is the branch of science dealing with the practice of breeding, farming and care of farm animals (livestocks) such as cattle, dogs, sheep and horses by humans for advantages.
  • It refers to livestock raising and selective breeding. It is a branch of agriculture.

What is the Need for Crop Diversification?

  • Adversities and Climatic Vagaries:
    • A farmer may confront a series of adversities and climatic vagaries during agricultural production, such as erratic rainfall, stone hail, drought, flood, and so on.
    • In addition, challenges like post-harvest losses, storage and unavailability of accessible proper marketing are further aggravating the problem.
    • Currently, the human-wildlife and / or human-crops conflict,  forest fires, organic matter deficit soil, monoculture, plant disease and infestation, migration  and the reluctance of youth towards agriculture are a new array of problems.
  • Problems in Maintaining Input Cost:
    • For more than five decades, Indian agriculture has been facing severe problems related to an increase in input cost to increase productivity.
    • However, the productivity proportional to input maintains for a certain time before plateauing and then progressively declines in many cases.
  • Following Same Pattern extract Specific Nutrients from the Soil:
    • Farmers have been using the common government-promoted Green Revolution cropping pattern — rice-wheat-rice for a longer time to enhance productivity.
    • Unilaterally, following the same cropping pattern for a longer period of time has extracted the specific nutrients from the soil, resulting in soil deficiency in those nutrients along with a declined population of microfauna in the soil.
    • The microfaunal population is responsible for the mobilisation and absorption of particular nutrients in the crop rhizosphere.
    • Reduction of the microfaunal population in the soil is a serious issue because without microfaunal activities, the soil is lost to self-perpetuate and its ecology for crop production.
    • The mono-cropping pattern also reduces resource-use efficiency.
    • Furthermore, mono-cropping patterns have more chances to be attacked by the same types of insects and pests, which in turn are controlled by pumping the insecticides and pesticides.

What is Agroforestry and its role in Sustaining Crop Diversification?

  • About:
    • It is a part of primitive and tribal agriculture nourished with indigenous technical knowledge.
    • Agroforestry is a land-use system that includes trees, crops and / or livestock in a spatial and temporal manner, balancing both ecological and economic interactions of biotic and abiotic components. It harnesses the complementarity between trees and crops for efficient utilisation of available resources.
    • Agroforestry is practiced for diversification around the world in different spheres of biological, ecological, economical and sociological considerations.
    • In North America, for instance, farmers preferred agroforestry over agriculture to improve their economic gain and natural resource conservation.
    • In Europe, agroforestry trees are dominated by oaks, pines, junipers and firs. In Australia, Pinus radiata and Eucalyptus globulus while in the African continent, coffee, cocoa, coconut, oil palm, and rubber are common agroforestry trees on farms.
    • The home gardens of the southern part of India are a classic example of maintaining temporal and spatial arrangement for crop diversity, with trees resulting in sustainable productivity from the unit area.
  • Role in Sustaining Crop Diversification:
    • Agroforestry can generate food, feed, fruits, fibre, fuel, fodder, fish, flavour, fragrance, floss, gum and resins as well as other non-wood products for food and nutritional security. It can also support livelihoods and promote productive, resilient agricultural environments in all ecologies.
    • Agroforestry contributes to a multifunctional production system which enhances biodiversity due to the creation of diverse habitat for macro- and micro-organisms and maintaining landforms for future generations.
    • It provides opportunities to integrate traditionally grown crops, with other commercial crops such as cereals, oilseeds, pulses, vegetables, fruits in agrihorticulture, hortisilviculture, silvolericulture, silvofloriculture, silvimedicinal, agrihortisilviculture, aquaforestry, silvipasture, hortipasture.

Way Forward

  • Although there are challenges which can not be ignored, crop diversification provides an opportunity to double farmers income and create food security for the nation.
  • Therefore, the government must promote crop diversification by purchasing crops produced other than wheat and rice at Minimum Support Price. This could also help conserve the dwindling supply of underground water.
  • Agricultural emissions can also be limited through smarter livestock handling, technology-enabled monitoring of fertilizer application, simple changes in field layout and other, more efficient agricultural techniques.

Farm Loan Waiver:

Context:

       The Congress manifesto for the UP polls promises waiver of farm loans within 10 days of coming to power and a subquota for the most backward classes (MBCs) within the other backward classes (OBC) quota to ensure maximum benefits, if voted to office Uttar Pradesh.

Background:

           To help the farm sector, state governments have time and again announced loan waiver schemes. Back in 2008-09, the then UPA government at the Centre had announced a loan waiver scheme for the entire country. States like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and others have announced similar schemes in the recent past.

 Drawbacks of loan waivers:

  • Firstly, it covers only a tiny fraction of farmers. The loan waiver as a concept excludes most of the farm households in dire need of relief and includes some who do not deserve such relief on economic grounds.
  • Second, it provides only a partial relief to the indebted farmers as about half of the institutional borrowing of a cultivator is for non-farm purposes.
  • Third, in many cases, one household has multiple loanseither from different sources or in the name of different family members, which entitles it to multiple loan waiving.
  • Fourth, loan waiving excludes agricultural labourerswho are even weaker than cultivators in bearing the consequences of economic distress.
  • Fifth, it severely erodes the credit culture, with dire long-run consequences to the banking business.
  • Sixth, the scheme is prone to serious exclusion and inclusion errors, as evidenced by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) findings in the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008.
  • Lastly, schemes have serious implications for other developmental expenditure, having a much larger multiplier effect on the economy.

 What needs to be done?

       Proper identification: For providing immediate relief to the needy farmers, a more inclusive alternative approach is to identify the vulnerable farmers based on certain criteria and give an equal amount as financial relief to the vulnerable and distressed families.

       Enhance non- farm income: The sustainable solution to indebtedness and agrarian distress is to raise income from agricultural activities and enhance access to non-farm sources of income. The low scale of farms necessitates that some cultivators move from agriculture to non-farm jobs.

Improved technology, expansion of irrigation coverage, and crop diversification towards high-value crops are appropriate measures for raising productivity and farmers’ income. All these require more public funding and support.

 Observations made by RBI:

 As per RBI, loan waivers not only inhibit investment in the farm sector but put pressure on the fiscal of states which undertake farm loan waiver.

  • In every state election during the last five years, loan waiver promise made by one political party or other. Also, loan waivers, as the RBI has repeatedly argued, vitiate the credit culture, and stress the budgets of the waiving state or central government.

 Way ahead:

The magic wand of a waiver can offer temporary relief, but long-term solutions are needed to solve farmer woes. There are many dimensions of the present agrarian crisis in India. The search for a solution therefore needs to be comprehensive by taking into consideration all the factors that contribute to the crisis. Furthermore, both short- and long-term measures are required to address the numerous problems associated with the agrarian crisis.

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ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY – 9 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

  • Misuse of Section 498A IPC

GS Paper 2:

  • Draft-Anti Conversion bill: Haryana
  • Central Media Accreditation Guidelines-2022

GS Paper 3:

  • India’s patent waiver plan at WTO and issues associated:
  • Marine Heatwaves

GS paper 1

Misuse of Section 498A IPC:

Why in News?

       The Supreme Court in a recent judgement highlighted the growing misuse of Section 498A IPC, with friction rising in marriages.

  • The incorporation of section 498A was aimed at preventing cruelty committed upon a woman by her husband and her in-laws by facilitating rapid state intervention.
  • The court held that there is an increased tendency to employ provisions such as Section 498A IPC as instruments to settle personal scores against the husband and his relatives.

What is Section 498A IPC?

  • Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code 1860 was passed by the Indian Parliament in 1983.
  • The section of 498A of the Indian Penal Code is a criminal law.
  • It is defined that if the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjected such woman towards cruelty would be punished with imprisonment for a term which might extend to 3 years and may also be liable for fine.
  • Section 498 A of Indian Penal Code is one of the greatest rescues for Violence against Woman (VAW), which is a reflection of the pathetic reality of the domestic violence occurring within the four walls of a house.

What are Acts of Domestic Violence?

  • Physical violence, such as slapping, hitting, kicking and beating.
  • Sexual violence, including forced sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion.
  • Emotional (psychological) abuse, such as insults, belittling, constant humiliation, intimidation, threats of harm, threats to take away children.
  • Controlling behaviors, including isolating a person from family and friends, monitoring their movements and restricting access to financial resources, employment, education or medical care.

What are Indian laws that help curb the instances of violence against women?

  • The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
  • The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
  • The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013

How Section 498A is Misused?

  • Against Husband & Relatives: With the rise in the rate of education, financial security, and modernization, the more independent and the radical feminists have made Section 498A of IPC as a weapon in their hands than a shield.
  • Due to this, many helpless husbands and their relatives have become the victims of the vengeful daughters-in-law of their house.
  • Blackmail Attempts: These days in many cases where Section 498A is invoked, they turn out to be false cases as they turn out to be mere blackmail attempts by the wife (or her close relatives) when troubled with a stressed marriage.
  • Due to this, in most cases the Section 498A complaint is generally followed by the demand of a huge amount of money to settle the case outside the court.
  • Degradation of Marriage: The court held specifically that there is misuse and exploitation of the provisions to such an extent that it was hitting on the basis that is the foundation of marriage itself.
  • This has ultimately proved to be not a good sign for the health of society for the public at large.
  • Women have begun misusing Section 498 of IPC as this law is a tool for their vengeance or to get out of wedlock.
  • Malimath Committee Report, 2003: Similar views were also expressed by the 2003 Malimath Committee report on reforms in the criminal justice system.
  • The committee noted that the “general complaint” of Section 498A of the IPC to be a subject to gross misuse.

Way Forward

  • It is important to note that the domestic violence and abuse by the spouse and family members are very complex behaviors and the social organization of courts, legal cultures, and the police systematically tend to devalue several domestic violence cases.
  • Therefore the perspective of the state and the people needs to change from potential “misuse” of the concerned laws of domestic violence to that of implementing it for their real purpose.

GS Paper 2

Draft-Anti Conversion bill: Haryana

Why in News?

Recently, the Haryana government released the draft of the Haryana Prevention of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Bill, 2022.

  • The bill aims at prohibiting religious conversions which are affected through misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage by making it an offense.
  • Other States like Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have also passed laws restricting religious conversion.

What is the Need for Anti-Conversion Laws?

  • No Right to Proselytize: The Constitution confers on each individual the fundamental right to profess, practice and propagate his religion.
  • The individual right to freedom of conscience and religion cannot be extended to construe a collective right to proselytize.
  • For the right to religious freedom belongs equally to the person converting and the individual sought to be converted.
  • Fraudulent Marriages: In the recent past, several instances have come to the notice that whereby people marry persons of other religion by either misrepresentation or concealment of their own religion and after getting married they force such other person to convert to their own religion.
  • SC Observations: Recently, the Supreme Court also took judicial notice of such instances.
  • According to the court, such incidents not only infringe the freedom of religion of the persons so converted but also militate against the secular fabric of our society.

What are the Provisions of the Draft Bill?

  • The Bill provides for greater punishment for such conversions in respect of minors, women, Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
  • It also provides that the burden of proof as to whether a conversion was not affected through misrepresentation, use of force, under threat, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or for marriage for the purpose of carrying out conversion lies on the accused.
  • Every individual converting from one religion to another shall submit to the prescribed authority a declaration that the conversion affected through was not by any fraudulent means.
  • Besides, it provides for declaring marriages null and void, which were solemnized by concealment of religion.

What is the Status of Anti-Conversion Laws in India?

  • Constitutional Provision: The Indian Constitution under Article 25 guarantees the freedom to profess, propagate, and practise religion, and allows all religious sections to manage their own affairs in matters of religion; subject to public order, morality, and health.
  • However, no person shall force their religious beliefs and consequently, no person should be forced to practice any religion against their wishes.
  • Existing Laws: There has been no central legislation restricting or regulating religious conversions.
  • However, since 1954, on multiple occasions,  Private Member Bills have been introduced in (but never approved by) the Parliament, to regulate religious conversions.
  • Further, in 2015, the Union Law Ministry stated that Parliament does not have the legislative competence to pass anti-conversion legislation.
  • Over the years, several states have enacted ‘Freedom of Religion’ legislation to restrict religious conversions carried out by force, fraud, or inducements.

What are the Issues Associated with Anti-Conversion Laws?

  • Uncertain and Vague Terminology: The uncertain and vague terminology like misrepresentation, force, fraud, allurement presents a serious avenue for misuse.
  • These terms leave room for ambiguities or are too broad, extending to subjects far beyond the protection of religious freedom.
  • Antithetical to Minorities: Another issue is that the present anti-conversion laws focus more on the prohibition of conversion to achieve religious freedom.
  • However, the broad language used by the prohibitive legislation might be used by officials to oppress and discriminate against minorities.
  • Antithetical to Secularism: These laws may pose a threat to the secular fabric of India and the international perception of our society’s intrinsic values and legal system.

What are Supreme Court Judgements on Marriage and Conversion?

  • Hadiya Judgement 2017:
    • Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity.
    • Neither the State nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters.
    • The principle that the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 .
    • S. Puttaswamy or ‘privacy’ Judgment 2017
    • Autonomy of the individual was the ability to make decisions in vital matters of concern to life.
  • Other Judgements:
    • The SC in its various judgments, has held that faith, the state and the courts have no jurisdiction over an adult’s absolute right to choose a life partner.
    • India is a “free and democratic country” and any interference by the State in an adult’s right to love and marry has a “chilling effect” on freedoms.
    • Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable and the choice of a life partner, whether by marriage or outside it, is part of an individual’s “personhood and identity”.
    • The absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith.

Way Forward

The governments implementing such laws need to ensure that these do not curb one’s Fundamental Rights or hamper the national integration instead, these laws need to strike a balance between freedoms and malafide conversions.

Central Media Accreditation Guidelines-2022:

Why in News?

Recently, the Central government has released the Central Media Accreditation Guidelines-2022.

  • Applications for accreditation are vetted by a Central Press Accreditation Committee headed by the DG, PIB.
  • At present, there are 2,457 PIB-accredited journalists in the country.

What are the Provisions under Guidelines?

  • Provisions to Withdraw/Suspend Accreditation:
    • If a journalist acts in a manner prejudicial to the country’s security, sovereignty and integrity, friendly relations with foreign States, public order or is charged with a serious cognisable offence.
    • If actions are prejudicial to decency, or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
    • Accredited media persons have been prohibited from using the words “Accredited to the government of India” on public/social media profile, visiting cards, letter heads or on any other form or any published work.
  • Provisions for Granting Accreditation:
    • Accreditation is only available for journalists living in the Delhi NCR region. There are multiple categories.
    • A journalist needs to have a minimum five years’ professional experience as a full-time working journalist or a cameraperson in a news organisation, or a minimum of 15 years as a freelancer to become eligible.
    • Veteran journalists, with over 30 years of experience, and who are older than 65 years of age, too are eligible.
    • A newspaper or a periodical needs to have a minimum daily circulation of 10,000, and news agencies must have at least 100 subscribers. Similar rules apply for foreign news organisations and foreign journalists.
    • Journalists working with digital news platforms are also eligible, provided the website has a minimum of 10 lakh unique visitors per month.
    • No accreditation will be granted to freelance journalists working for foreign news media organisations.
  • Central Media Accreditation Committee (CMAC):
    • The Government shall constitute a Committee called the Central Media Accreditation Committee.
    • The Committee will be chaired by the Principal Director General, Press Information Bureau (PIB) and composed of up to 25 members nominated by the government to discharge the functions laid down under these guidelines.
    • The CMAC would function for a period of two years from the date of its first meeting and shall meet once in a quarter or more frequently, if necessary.

What are the associated Concerns?

  • The guidelines leave it to the discretion of government nominated officials to assess what is defamatory or prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of India while deciding on whether a journalist’s accreditation should be suspended or withdrawn.
  • One of the core responsibilities of a journalist is to expose wrongdoing, whether by public officials, politicians, big businessmen, corporate groups, or other people in power.
  • This could result, at times, in such powers trying to intimidate journalists or to block information from coming out.
  • Journalists often report on issues and policy decisions that the government may not like.
  • Any investigative story on sensitive issues could be held to be in violation of any of these provisions.

How does Accreditation Help?

  • Allow Access to Big Events:
    • In certain events where VVIPs or dignitaries such as the President, the Vice President or the Prime Minister are present, only accredited journalists are allowed to report from the premises.
  • Help in Protecting Identities:
    • Second, accreditation ensures that a journalist is able to protect the identity of his or her sources.
    • An accredited journalist does not have to disclose who he or she intends to meet when entering offices of union ministries, as the accreditation card is “valid for entry into buildings under MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) security zone”.
  • Benefits the Journalist:
    • Accreditation brings certain benefits for the journalist and his or her family, like being included in the Central Government Health Scheme, and some concessions on railway tickets.

What are the Constitutional Provisions related to Freedom of Press?

  • The Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression under Article 19, which deals with Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.
  • Freedom of the press is not expressly protected by the Indian legal system but it is impliedly protected under article 19(1) (a) of the constitution.
  • However, Freedom of the press is also not absolute.
  • A law could impose only those restrictions on the exercise of this right, it faces certain restrictions under article 19(2), which is as follows:
  • Sovereignty and integrity of India, Security of the State, Friendly relations with foreign States, Public order, decency or morality or in Contempt of court, Defamation, Incitement to an offence.

GS Paper 3

India’s patent waiver plan at WTO and issues associated:

Context:

         A proposal was taken up at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations, in 2020, to “temporarily waive” intellectual property rights (IPR) held, by primarily Western countries, on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for covid-19. This proposal was co-authored by India.

  • Now, India runs the risk of being excluded from this proposal.

 Background:

        India and South Africa had jointly sponsored a proposal in October 2020 and this was updated, with representation from several low– and middle–income countries — though with the notable omission of China — to expand the scope of the waiver to “all health products and technologies” and to have the waiver in place for at least a year.

What’s the issue?

       A small group of WTO members are “discussing suggestions” to exclude drug manufacturers in India and China — two major, global suppliers of medicine — from prospective waivers to IPR obligations that result from the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) which WTO members are committed to uphold.

  • Also, Manufacturers want to “limit” any benefits of the waiver only to African countries, and not pave the way for Indian manufacturers who, with their large production capacities, would easily undercut Western competitors.

Why is there an opposition to the waiver? What are the arguments against it?

       Waiving of intellectual property rights will neither lead to increased production of vaccines or increased deployment nor practical solutions to fight the virus of COVID-19 vaccines since IP is not the barrier.

      Waiving of intellectual property rights could impact patient safety by opening doors for counterfeit vaccines to enter the supply chain.

 Need of the hour:

Our top most priority should be to address the supply side constraints, including IP barriers, to augment the manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, essential for treatment, prevention and control of the ongoing pandemic.

 What does the intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccines mean?

        The IP waiver might open up space for production of Covid vaccines with emergency use authorisations (EUA) — such as those developed by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and Bharat Biotech — on a larger scale in middle-income countries.

  • Most production is currently concentrated in high-income countries; production by middle-income countries has been happening through licensing or technology transfer agreements.

 What are patents and IP rights?

         A patent represents a powerful intellectual property right, and is an exclusive monopoly granted by a government to an inventor for a limited, pre-specified time. It provides an enforceable legal right to prevent others from copying the invention.

 Patents can be either process patents or product patents:

  1. A product patent ensures that the rights to the final product is protected, and anyone other than the patent holder can be restrained from manufacturing it during a specified period, even if they were to use a different process.
  2. A process patent enables any person other than the patent holder to manufacture the patented product by modifying certain processes in the manufacturing exercise.

 Patent regime in India:

         India moved from product patenting to process patenting in the 1970s, which enabled India to become a significant producer of generic drugs at global scale, and allowed companies like Cipla to provide Africa with anti-HIV drugs in the 1990s.

  • But due to obligations arising out of the TRIPS Agreement, India had to amend the Patents Act in 2005, and switch to a product patents regime across the pharma, chemicals, and biotech sectors.

What is the TRIPS Agreement?

The TRIPS agreement was negotiated in 1995 at the WTO, it requires all its signatory countries to enact domestic law.

  • It guarantees minimum standards of IP protection. Such legal consistency enables innovators to monetise their intellectual property in multiple countries.
  • In 2001, the WTO signed the Doha Declaration, which clarified that in a public health emergency, governments could compel companies to license their patents to manufacturers, even if they did not think the offered price was acceptable.
  • This provision, commonly referred to as “compulsory licensing”, was already built into the TRIPS Agreement and the Doha declaration only clarified its usage.

Marine Heatwaves:

Why in News?

According to a study, marine heatwaves — or the ones that form on oceans — have been on the rise in the waters around India.

What are the Findings of the Study?

  • The Western Indian Ocean region experienced the largest increase in marine heatwaves at a rate of about 1.5 events per decade, followed by the north Bay of Bengal at a rate of 0.5 events per decade.
  • The marine heatwaves in the Western Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal increased drying conditions over the central Indian subcontinent.
  • Correspondingly, there is a significant increase in the rainfall over south peninsular India in response to the heatwaves in the north Bay of Bengal.
  • From 1982 to 2018, the Western Indian Ocean had a total of 66 events, while the Bay of Bengal had 94 events.
  • These changes are in response to the modulation of the monsoon winds by the heatwaves.
  • This is the first time that a study has demonstrated a close link between marine heatwaves and atmospheric circulation and rainfall.

What are Marine Heatwaves?

  • Marine heatwaves are periods of extremely high temperatures in the ocean.
  • These events are linked to coral bleaching, seagrass destruction, and loss of kelp forests, affecting the fisheries sector adversely.
  • Study showed that 85% of the corals in the Gulf of Mannar near the Tamil Nadu coast got bleached after the marine heatwave in May 2020.
  • The most common drivers of marine heatwaves include ocean currents which can build up areas of warm water and air-sea heat flux, or warming through the ocean surface from the atmosphere.
  • Winds can enhance or suppress the warming in a marine heatwave, and climate modes like El Niño can change the likelihood of events occurring in certain regions.

What are the Impacts of Marine Heatwaves?

  • Affect Ecosystem Structure:
    • Marine heat waves affect ecosystem structure, by supporting certain species and suppressing others.
    • It has been associated with the mass mortality of marine invertebrates, and may force species to change behaviour in a way that puts wildlife at increased risk of harm.
  • Change Habitat Ranges of Certain Species:
    • Marine heatwaves can change the habitat ranges of certain species, such as the spiny sea urchin off southeastern Australia which has been expanding southward into Tasmania at the expense of kelp forests which it feeds upon.
  • Economic Losses:
    • Marine heatwaves can cause economic losses through impacts on fisheries and aquaculture.
  • Affect Biodiversity:
    • Biodiversity can be drastically affected by marine heatwaves.
    • In 2016, marine heatwaves across northern Australia led to severe bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Increase the Risk of Deoxygenation and Acidification:
    • Often they occur alongside other stressors such as ocean acidification, deoxygenation, and overfishing.
    • In such cases, MHWs not only further damage habitats, but also increase the risk of deoxygenation and acidification.

Way Forward

  • Since the frequency, intensity, and area covered by the marine heatwaves are increasing, it is needed to enhance the ocean observational arrays to monitor these events accurately, and update our weather models to skillfully predict the challenges presented by a warming world.
  • Effective responses to MHWs require action from a broad range of stakeholders: policymakers, researchers, the private sector (fisheries, aquaculture, ecotourism), conservationists, and civil society.
  • Local management agencies should therefore raise awareness across all stakeholders and implement forecast systems to help achieve a coordinated response.
  • National and sub-national governments should design and implement measures to protect communities and build regional ocean resilience.

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ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY – 8 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

  • Microbes in plastic Clean-up Bioremediation

GS Paper 2:

  • India’s Solar Sector
  • Kerala Governor Signs Lok Ayukta ordinance

GS Paper 3:

  • Need to Boost Labour Income and Consumption Expenditure
  • National Ropeways Development Programme – “Parvatmala”

GS Paper 1

Microbes in plastic Clean-up Bioremediation:

Why in News?

A team of Argentine scientists is using microorganisms native to Antartica to explore the idea of cleaning up pollution from fuels and, potentially, plastics in the pristine expanses of the white continent.

  • The continent is protected by a 1961 Madrid Protocol that stipulates it must be kept in a pristine state.
  • Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year for use in a wide variety of applications. At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.

How was the Research carried out on Microbes?

  • The researchers collected samples of plastic from the Antarctic seas and studied to see if the microorganisms are eating the plastics or simply using them as rafts.
  • The team carried out bioremediation tasks.
  • The team helped the microbes with nitrogen, humidity and aeration to optimize their conditions.
  • This work uses the potential of native microorganisms – bacteria and fungi that inhabit the Antarctic soil, even when it is contaminated – and make these microorganisms eat the hydrocarbons.
  • The tiny microbes munch through the waste, creating a naturally occurring cleaning system for pollution caused by diesel that is used as a source of electricity and heat for research bases in the frozen Antarctic.
  • The research on how the microbes could help with plastic waste could have potential for wider environmental issues.

What is Bioremediation?

  • It is a branch of biotechnology that employs the use of living organisms, like microbes and bacteria, in the removal of contaminants, pollutants, and toxins from soil, water, and other environments.
  • Bioremediation is used to clean up oil spills or contaminated groundwater.
  • Bioremediation may be done “in situ”–at the site of the contamination–or “ex situ”–away from the site.

What are the Benefits of Bioremediation?

  • By relying solely on natural processes, it minimizes damage to ecosystems.
  • Bioremediation often takes place underground, where amendments and microbes can be pumped in order to clean up contaminants in groundwater and soil.
  • Consequently, bioremediation does not disrupt nearby communities as much as other cleanup methodologies.
  • “Amendments” to the environment, such as molasses, vegetable oil, or simple air optimize conditions for microbes to flourish, thereby accelerating the completion of the bioremediation process.
  • The bioremediation process creates relatively few harmful byproducts (mainly due to the fact that contaminants and pollutants are converted into water and harmless gases like carbon dioxide).
  • Bioremediation is cheaper than most cleanup methods because it does not require substantial equipment or labor.

GS Paper 2

India’s Solar Sector:

Why in News?

     The centre is set to come up with rules to pool solar tariffs and is also aiming to increase bundling of renewable energy in existing thermal Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) to boost the procurement of renewable energy.

  • The government is aiming to boost installed renewable energy capacity to 500 GW (GigaWatts) by 2030.
  • A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), or electricity power agreement, is a contract between two parties, one which generates electricity (power generating companies (gencos)) and one which is looking to purchase electricity .

What is the Issue?

  • Solar tariffs have fallen consistently over the past decade to a low of under Rs 2 per unit (1 unit = 1 kWh) in December 2020 due to the falling price of solar panels and lower financing cost.
  • The trend of lower solar tariffs has led to many many players waiting on tariffs to fall further instead of entering into long term power procurement agreements.

How can this Step be Helpful?

  • A move to pool tariffs could help speed up procurement of solar power by addressing concerns among discoms of losing out on lower solar tariffs in the future.
  • The government is planning to pool all solar power procurement in a given period and ask that all buyers pay an average of all the tariffs that are contracted in a pooling period.
  • The government’s step to bundle about 10,000 MW of  Renewable energy  based power with fossil fuel based power over the next 4-5 year would also help lower total cost of power procurement for certain discoms.
  • There are a number of old thermal power projects that are unviable because of high variable costs and don’t get dispatched in merit order and that discoms are forced to pay fixed costs due to requirements under existing PPAs.
  • The centre had in November 2021 issued guidelines which permitted thermal generation companies to supply power to customers from their renewable energy projects under the existing Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for coal-based electricity with gains from the bundling of renewable energy to be shared between generators and (discoms) on a 50:50 basis.

What is the Current state of India’s Solar Sector?

  • About:
    • The country’s installed Renewable Energy (RE) capacity stands at 150.54 GW (solar: 48.55 GW, wind: 40.03 GW, Small hydro Power: 4.83, Bio-power: 10.62, Large Hydro: 46.51 GW) as on 30th Nov. 2021 while its nuclear energy based installed electricity capacity stands at 6.78 GW.
    • India has the 4th largest wind power capacity in the world.
    • This brings the total non-fossil based installed energy capacity to 157.32 GW which is 40.1% of the total installed electricity capacity of 392.01 GW.
  • Push to RE in the Budget 2022-23:
    • About:
      • To facilitate domestic manufacturing for the ambitious goal of 280 GW of installed solar capacity by 2030, an additional allocation of 19,500 crore for Production Linked Incentive for manufacture of high efficiency modules will be made.
    • Issues:
      • Budget estimate for the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) for 2022-23 showed that the investment in Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) has been nearly halved — to less than Rs 1,000 crores from over Rs 1,800 crore.
  • SECI is the only Public sector undertaking of the Union government working on solar energy and is currently responsible for the development of the entire renewable energy sector.
      • A primary issue with the manufacturing of solar PhotoVoltaic (PV) modules in India over the years has been a lack of quality.
  • This could have been addressed by enhancing research and development related to technological aspects of fully integrated manufacturing units from polysilicon to solar PV modules.
  • However, any separate allocation for such R&D has not been announced.

Related Initiatives:

  • Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM)
  • International Solar Alliance
  • One Sun, One World, One Grid (OSOWOG)
  • National Solar Mission
  • National Offshore Wind Energy Policy
  • Roof Top Solar programme Phase-II
  • National Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy 2018
  • Hydrogen Based Fuel Cells Vehicles

Way Forward

  • Identification of Areas: Renewable resources specially wind cannot be set up everywhere, they require specific location.
    • Identification of these specific locations, integrating them with the main grid and distribution of powers, a combination of these three is what will take India forward.
  • Exploration: More storage solutions need to be explored.
  • Agriculture Subsidy: Agricultural subsidy should be rectified in order to ensure that only the required amount of energy is consumed.
  • Hydrogen Fuel Cell Based Vehicles and Electric Vehicles: These are the most suitable options when it comes to shifting towards renewable sources of energy, that’s where we need to work upon

Kerala Governor Signs Lok Ayukta ordinance:

Context:

       The Kerala governor has signed the ordinance proposing amendments to the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999, that makes the agency’s orders not binding on the government.

 Amendments to the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999:

  • The government can “either accept or reject the verdict of the L, Lok Ayukta  after giving an opportunity of being heard”.
  • Currently, under Section 14 of the Act, a public servant is required to vacate office if directed by the Lokayukta.

 The amendments are being opposed for two reasons:

  • The changes are proposed through an ordinance and hence there was no proper discussions on the matter.
  • It violates the fundamental spirit of the central Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013. For reference on Who is a Lokayukta? What is Lokayukta act, please go through this article.

 Ordinance making power:

  • The ordinance making power is the most important legislative power of the President and the Governor. It has been vested in them to deal with unforeseen or urgent situations.
  • Article 123 of the Constitution grants the President certain law-making powers to promulgate ordinances during the recess of Parliament.
  • These ordinances have the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament but are in the nature of temporary laws.
  • Likewise, the Governor of a state can issue ordinances under Article 213 of the Constitution, when the state legislative assembly (or either of the two Houses in states with bicameral legislatures) is not in session.
  • The Constitution permits the central and State governments to make laws when Parliament (or the State Legislature) is not in session.

How long will it be in force?

        The Constitution states that the ordinance will lapse at the end of six weeks from the time Parliament (or the State Legislature) next meets.

Concerns associated with the ordinance route:

  • Whereas an ordinance was originally conceived as an emergency provision, it was used fairly regularly. In the 1950s, central ordinances were issued at an average of 7.1 per year. The last couple of years has seen a spike, 16 in 2019 and 15 in 2020.
  • Repromulgation: A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in 1986, ruled that repromulgation of ordinances was contrary to the Constitutional scheme.

 Judicial Safeguards to avoid re-promulgation of ordinances:

  • The Supreme Court in RC Cooper vs. Union of India (1970) held that the President’s decision to promulgate ordinance could be challenged on the grounds that ‘immediate action’ was not required, and the ordinance had been issued primarily to bypass debate and discussion in the legislature.
  • It was argued in DC Wadhwa vs. the State of Bihar (1987) that the legislative power of the executive to promulgate ordinances is to be used in exceptional circumstances and not as a substitute for the law-making power of the legislature.
  • The Supreme Court in Krishna Kumar Singh v. the State of Bihar held that the authority to issue ordinances is not an absolute entrustment, but is “conditional upon satisfaction that circumstances exist rendering it necessary to take immediate action”.

GS Paper 3

Need to Boost Labour Income and Consumption Expenditure:

Why in News?

The Union Budget 2022-23 has projected a fiscal deficit of 6.4% of nominal GDP, a narrowing from the 6.9% assumed in the revised estimates for the current fiscal year ending on 31st March, 2022.

  • In simple words, a fiscal deficit is a shortfall in a government’s income compared with its spending.
  • Nominal GDP is GDP (Gross Domestic Product) evaluated at current market prices. It includes all of the changes in market prices that have occurred during the current year due to inflation or deflation.

What was the Economic Context to this year’s Budget Formulation?

  • Reduction in Labour Income and Consumption Expenditure:
    • Though every economic crisis involves sharp reduction in output growth rate, the specificity of the present crisis in India lies in the sharper reduction in labour income as compared to profits.
    • The consequent reduction in income share of labour was associated with a sharp fall in consumption-GDP ratio as well as absolute value of consumption expenditure during the pandemic.
    • The four components of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are personal consumption, business investment, government spending, and net exports.
  • Structural Challenge:
    • It is pertaining to addressing the structural constraints of the Indian economy that restricted growth even during the pre-pandemic period.

What are the Key Shortcomings in the Budget-22 in this Regard?

  • Revenue Expenditure:
    • The share of revenue and non-debt receipts in GDP has remained more or less unchanged, the objective of fiscal consolidation has been sought to be achieved primarily by reducing the expenditure-GDP ratio.
    • Fiscal consolidation refers to the ways and means of narrowing the fiscal deficit.
    • Hence, the brunt of this expenditure compression fell on revenue expenditure.
    • Expenditure on the payment of wages and salaries, subsidies or interest payments would be typically classified as revenue expenditure.
  • Effect on Income and Livelihood of Labour:
    • Since the bulk of the revenue expenditure comprises food subsidies and current expenses in social and economic services, reduction in the allocation for revenue expenditure has been associated with fall in several key expenditure that affect the income and livelihood of labour.
    • For example, allocation for both agriculture and allied activities and rural development registered a sharp decline in nominal absolute terms in 2022-23 as compared to 2021-22.
    • Similarly, in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, total nominal expenditure on medical and public health registered a sharp fall in 2022-23 as compared to 2021-22. Such expenditure compression has been associated with the overall fall in the allocation for total social sector expenditure.
  • Low Corporate Tax Ratio:
    • Despite sharp increase in profits during the pandemic, the corporate tax-GDP ratio has continued to remain below the 2018-19 level due to tax concessions. Despite the objective of fiscal consolidation, the corporate tax ratio continues to remain low and restrict revenue receipts.

What are the Implications for Development Spending?

  • The objective of fiscal consolidation along with the inability to increase revenue receipts has posed a constraint on development expenditure.
  • Developmental expenditure refers to the expenditure of the government which helps in economic development by increasing production and real income of the country.
  • With non-development expenditure comprising of interest payments, administrative expenditure and various other components which are typically rigid downward, the brunt of expenditure compression has fallen on development expenditure.
  • The reduction in the allocation for development expenditure ratio for 2022-23 reflects reduction in the allocation for food subsidies, national rural employment guarantee program, expenditure in agriculture, rural development and social sector.

What is the Concern from a Macroeconomic Perspective?

  • Impact on the Recovery of Labour Income and Consumption Expenditure:
    • Reduction in the allocation for development expenditure would have adverse impact on labour income and consumption expenditure.
    • The positive impact of higher capital expenditure on the recovery process would be largely curtailed by the adverse impact of more than proportionate fall in revenue expenditure.
  • Dependent on External Factor for Economic Revival:
    • Given the fiscal consolidation strategy of the Government, the prospect and extent of economic revival at the present remains heavily dependent on external demand.
    • Despite the brief recovery in exports in the last few quarters, the possibility of sustained economic recovery relying exclusively on the export channel appears to be bleak at the present as different countries have already started pursuing fiscal consolidation at the dictate of the IMF (International Monetary Fund).Way Forward
    • In an economy where growth is largely consumption-driven, it is important that income reaches the hands of the lower and the middle-income groups. This extra money in the hands of the lower and middle incomes groups will reach into the consumption channel, spurring consumption-driven growth.
    • India’s policy response needs to be ‘Keynesian’ — greater wealth taxation to channel resources towards social goals. This needs to be complemented by economic empowerment at the grassroots level by revitalising social security schemes targeted at income generation for lower income groups.

National Ropeways Development Programme – “Parvatmala”:

Why in News?

Recently, the Union Finance Minister in the Union Budget for 2022-23 announced National Ropeways Development Programme – “Parvatmala” to improve connectivity in hilly areas.

What is the Scheme?

  • The scheme will be taken up on PPP (Public Private Partnership)mode, which will be a preferred ecologically sustainable alternative in place of conventional roads in difficult hilly areas.
  • The idea is to improve connectivity and convenience for commuters, besides promoting tourism.
  • This may also cover congested urban areas, where conventional mass transit systems are not feasible.
  • The scheme is being presently started in regions like Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Jammu & Kashmir and the other North Eastern states.
  • The Finance Minister announced that contracts for 8 ropeway projects for a length of 60 km would be awarded in 2022-23.

Who is the Nodal Ministry?

  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) will have responsibility for development of ropeway and alternative mobility solutions technology, as well as construction, research, and policy in this area.
  • In February 2021, the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961 was amended, which enabled the MORTH to also look after the development of Ropeways and Alternate Mobility Solutions.
  • The move will give a boost to the sector by setting up a regulatory regime.
  • The MORTH has so far been responsible for development of Highways and regulating the road transport sector across the country.

What is the Significance?

  • Economical mode of transportation:
    • Given that ropeway projects are built in a straight line over a hilly terrain, it also results in lower land acquisition costs.
    • Hence, despite having a higher cost of construction per km than roadways, ropeway projects’ construction cost may happen to be more economical than roadways.
  • Faster mode of transportation:
    • Owing to the aerial mode of transportation, ropeways have an advantage over roadway projects where ropeways can be built in a straight line, over a hilly terrain.
  • Environmentally friendly:
    • Low dust emissions. Material containers can be designed so as to rule out any soiling of the environment.
  • Last mile connectivity:
    • Ropeway projects adopting 3S (a kind of cable car system) or equivalent technologies can transport 6000-8000 passengers per hour.

What are the Benefits of Ropeways?

  • Ideal for difficult / challenging / sensitive terrain:
    • Long rope spans: The system crosses obstacles like rivers, buildings, ravines, or roads without a problem.
    • Ropes guided over towers: Low space requirements on the ground, and no barrier for humans or animals.
  • Economy:
    • Ropeway having multiple cars propelled by a single power-plant and drive mechanism.
    • This reduces both construction and maintenance costs.
    • The use of a single operator for an entire ropeway is a further saving, in labor cost.
    • On level ground, the cost of ropeways is competitive with narrow-gauge railroads, in the mountains the ropeway is far superior.
  • Flexible:
    • Transport of different materials – A ropeway allows for the simultaneous transport of different types of material.
  • Ability to handle large slopes:
    • Ropeways and cableways (cable cranes) can handle large slopes and large differences in elevation.
    • Where a road or railroad needs switchbacks or tunnels, a ropeway travels straight up and down the fall line. The old cliff railways in England and ski resort ropeways in the mountains take advantage of this feature.
  • Low footprint:
  • The fact that only narrow-based vertical supports are needed at intervals, leaving the rest of the ground free, makes it possible for ropeways to be constructed in built-up areas and in places where there is intense competition for land use.

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ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY – 7 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

  • Criminalization of Politics
  • Vande Bharat Trains
  • Delimitation Panel

GS Paper 3:

  • Green Bonds
  • Dholes
  • Artificial Neural Network (ANN)

GS Paper 2

Criminalization of Politics:

  • Why in News?

 According to data compiled by the Amicus Curiae, a total of 4,984 criminal cases involving legislators were pending in various courts across the country as of 1st December, 2021.

  • The Amicus Curiae was appointed by the Supreme Court for helping the court in setting up special courts to fast-track cases against MPs and MLAs.
  • This trend highlights the increasing instance of criminalization of politics
  • An amicus curiae (literally, “friend of the court”) is someone who is not a party to a case and may or may not have been solicited by a party and who assists a court by offering information, expertise, and bearing on issues of the case.

What is Criminalization of Politics?

  • The criminalization of politics means the participation of criminals in politics which includes that criminals can contest in the elections and get elected as members of the Parliament and the State legislature.
  • It takes place primarily due to the nexus between politicians and criminals.

What are the Legal Aspects of Disqualification of Criminal Candidates?

  • In this regard, Indian Constitution does not specify as to what disqualifies a person from contesting elections for the Parliament, Legislative assembly or any other legislature.
  • The Representation of peoples act 1951 mentions the criteria for disqualifying a person for contesting an election of the legislature.
    • Section 8 of the act, i.e. disqualification on conviction for certain offences, according to which an individual punished with a jail term of more than two years cannot stand in an election for six years after the jail term has ended.
    • The law does not bar individuals who have criminal cases pending against them from contesting elections therefore the disqualification of candidates with criminal cases depends on their conviction in these cases.

What are the Reasons for Criminalization of Politics?

  • Lack of Enforcement: Several laws and court judgments have not helped much, due to the lack of enforcement of laws and judgments.
  • Vested Interests: Publishing of the entire criminal history of candidates fielded by political parties may not be very effective, as a major chunk of voters tend to vote through a narrow prism of community interests like caste or religion.
  • Use of Muscle and Money Power: Candidates with serious records seem to do well despite their public image, largely due to their ability to finance their own elections and bring substantive resources to their respective parties.
    • Also, sometimes voters are left with no options, as all competing candidates have criminal records. 

What are the Effects of Criminalization of Politics?

  • Against the Principle of Free and Fair Election: It limits the choice of voters to elect a suitable candidate.
    • It is against the ethos of free and fair election which is the bedrock of a democracy.
  • Affecting Good Governance: The major problem is that the law-breakers become law-makers, this affects the efficacy of the democratic process in delivering good governance.
    • These unhealthy tendencies in the democratic system reflect a poor image of the nature of India’s state institutions and the quality of its elected representatives.
  • Affecting Integrity of Public Servants: It also leads to increased circulation of black money during and after elections, which in turn increases corruption in society and affects the working of public servants.
  • Causes Social Disharmony: It introduces a culture of violence in society and sets a bad precedent for the youth to follow and reduces people’s faith in democracy as a system of governance.

Way Forward

  • State Funding of Elections: Various committees (Dinesh Goswami, Inderjeet Committee) on the electoral reforms have recommended state funding of election which will curb use of black money to a large extent and thereby will have a significant impact on limiting criminalization of politics.
  • Strengthening Election Commission: Regulating the affairs of a political party is essential for a cleaner electoral process. Therefore, it is imperative to strengthen the Election commission of india
  • Vigilant Voters: Voters also need to be vigilant about misuse of money, gifts and other inducements during elections.
  • Proactive Role of Judiciary: Given the reluctance by the political parties to curb criminalisation of politics and its growing detrimental effects on Indian democracy, Indian courts must now seriously consider banning people accused with serious criminal charges from contesting election

Vande Bharat Trains:

Why in News?

In the union budget 2022-2023, the Finance Minister has proposed the development and manufacture of 400 new vande bharat trains in the next three years.

  • The 400 trains carry a potential investment of Rs 50,000 crore while the current Vande Bharats are being made at Rs 106 crore per train set of 16 cars, at 2018 pricing.
  • It comes in addition to the current plan — to be able to run 75 Vande Bharats across India by Independence Day in 2023.

What are Vande Bharat Trains?

  • It is an indigenously designed and manufactured semi high speed, self-propelled train that is touted as the next major leap for the Indian Railways in terms of speed and passenger convenience since the introduction of Rajdhani trains.
  • The first Vande Bharat was manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, as part of the make in india programme at a cost of about Rs. 100 crore.
  • The Vande Bharat was India’s first attempt at adaptation of the train set technology compared with conventional systems of passenger coaches hauled by separate locomotives.
  • The train set configuration, though complex, is faster, easier to maintain, consumes less energy, and has greater flexibility in train operation.
  • Currently, two Vande Bharat Expresses are operational —one between New Delhi and Varanasi and the other from New Delhi to Katra.
  • The 400 new trains will have “better efficiency” and railways are looking at making several of these trainsets with aluminium instead of steel.
  • An aluminium body will make each trainset around 40-80 tonnes lighter than a current Vande Bharat and this will mean lower consumption of energy as well as better speed potential.

What are the Features of the Vande Bharat Trains?

  • These trains, dubbed as Train 18 during the development phase, operate without a locomotive and are based on a propulsion system called distributed traction power technology, by which each car of the train set is powered.
  • Its coaches incorporate passenger amenities including on-board WiFi entertainment, GPS-based passenger information system, CCTVs, automatic doors in all coaches, rotating chairs and bio-vacuum type toilets like in aircraft.
  • It can achieve a maximum speed of 160 kmph due to faster acceleration and deceleration, reducing journey time by 25% to 45%.
  • It also has an intelligent braking system with power regeneration for better energy efficiency thereby making it cost, energy and environment efficient.

What is the Significance?

  • The sheer manufacturing of 400 of these trainset equipment in three years will be additional employment generation to the tune of 10,000-15,000.
  • The pumping in around Rs 50,000 crore into the country’s rolling stock industry, will give a big boost in the sectors of component manufacturing, supplies etc.
  • It will also improve railway finances and operational efficiency.

Way Forward

  • Indian railways is moving towards a new era of travel experience with upgraded next-generation trains. At a time when low cost airlines and smooth road networks are offering stiff competition, the new trains can help railways retain traffic and even grow it.
  • Timely execution of the ambitious project and keeping in mind the demand for various classes of travel will go a long way in ensuring the success of the Vande Bharat project.

Delimitation Panel

Context:

The Jammu and Kashmir Delimitation commission(headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai) has submitted its interim report. As per the report:

  • Of the 90 Assembly seats, 28 new Assembly constituencies have been reconfigured or renamed.
  • 19 Assembly segments have been deleted.
  • All the five Lok Sabha seats will be redrawn.
  • The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi constituency has been identified as the smallest of all with just 73,648 votes in the Jammu region.

 Delimitation exercise in J&K- a timeline:

  1. The first delimitation exercise, carving out 25 assembly constituencies in the then state, was carried out by a Delimitation Committee in 1951.
  2. The first full-fledged Delimitation Commission was formed in 1981 and it submitted its recommendations in 1995 on the basis of 1981 Census. Since then, there has been no delimitation.
  3. In 2020, the Delimitation Commission was constituted to carry out the exercise on the basis of 2011 Census, with a mandate to add seven more seats to the Union Territory’ and grant reservations to SC and ST communities.
  4. Now, the total number of seats in Jammu and Kashmir will be raised to 90 from the previous 83. This is apart from 24 seats which have been reserved for areas of PoK and have to be kept vacant in the Assembly.

 What is delimitation and why is it needed?

  • The Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir was constituted by the Centre on March 6 last year to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the union territory in accordance with the provisions of The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation act,2019 and Delimitation Act, 2002, passed by the Centre in August 2019 along with other J&K-specific Bills.

What is Delimitation?

          Delimitation literally means the process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a state that has a legislative body.

Who carries out the exercise?

  • Delimitation is undertaken by a highly powerful commission. They are formally known as Delimitation Commision or Boundary Commission.
  • These bodies are so powerful that its orders have the force of law and they cannot be challenged before any court.

 Composition of the Commission:

  • According to the Delimitation Commission Act, 2002, the Delimitation Commission will have three members: a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson, and the Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC and the State Election Commissioner as ex-officio members.

 Constitutional Provisions:

  1. Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  2. Under Article 170, States also get divided into territorial constituencies as per Delimitation Act after every Census.

GS Paper 3

Green Bonds:

Context:

    Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech announced that the government proposes to issue sovereign Green Bonds to mobilise resources for green infrastructure.

  • The proceeds will be deployed in public sector projects which help in reducing the carbon intensity of the economy.
  • Now, the government has clarified that these rupee-denominated papers will have a long tenure to suit the requirement of green infrastructure projects. 

What Is Green Bonds

  • A green bond is a type of fixed-income instrument that is specifically earmarked to raise money for climate and environmental projects.
  • These bonds are typically asset-linked and backed by the issuing entity’s balance sheet, so they usually carry the same credit rating as their issuers’ other debt obligations.​
  • Green bonds may come with tax incentives to enhance their attractiveness to investors.
  • The Word bank is a major issuer of green bonds. It has issued 164 such bonds since 2008, worth a combined $14.4 billion. In 2020, the total issuance of green bonds was worth almost $270 billion, according to the Climate Bond Initiative

 How Does a Green Bond Work?

   Green bonds work just like any other corporate or government bond.

  • Borrowers issue these securities in order to secure financing for projects that will have a positive environmental impact, such as ecosystem restoration or reducing pollution.
  • Investors who purchase these bonds can expect to make as the bond matures.
  • In addition, there are often tax benefits for investing in green bonds.

Green Bonds Vs Blue Bonds:

     Blue bonds are sustainability bonds to finance projects that protect the ocean and related ecosystems.

  • This can include projects to support sustainable fisheries, protection of coral reefs and other fragile ecosystems, or reducing pollution and acidification.
  • All blue bonds are green bonds, but not all green bonds are blue bonds.

 Green Bonds Vs Climate Bonds:

          “Green bonds” and “climate bonds” are sometimes used interchangeably, but some authorities use the latter term specifically for projects focusing on reducing carbon emissions or alleviating the effects of climate change.

Dholes:

Why in News?

    A new study has reported the presence of dholes or Asiatic wild dogs in the high mountains of Central Asia nearly 30 years after their presence was last recorded.

  • The animals have been discovered in the Bek-Tosot Conservancy in the Osh region of southern Kyrgyzstan, a few kilometres from the Tajik border. It lies in the Pamir mountain range of Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China.

What do we Know About Dholes?

  • About: Dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a wild carnivorous animal and is a member of the family Canidae and the class Mammalia.
    • They are also known as Asian wild dogs.
  • Habitat: 
    • Historically, dholes purportedly occurred throughout southern Russia, all across central Asia, south Asia and southeast Asia.
    • According to recent research and current distribution maps, they are restricted to south and southeast Asia, with the northernmost populations in China.
    • In India, they are found in three clusters across India namely the Western  and Eestern ghats central Indian landscape and North East india
    • Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh rank high in the conservation of the endangered dhole in India, According to study(2020).
  • Ecological role: Dholes play an important role as apex predators in forest ecosystems.

What is the Conservation Status of Dholes?

  • IUCN List of Threatened Species: Endangered
  • Convention on Internation Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES): Appendix II
  • Wildlife Protection Act 1972: Schedule II

Why is their Population Decreasing?

  • Ongoing habitat loss: Due to deforestation and fragmentation of forest corridors.
  • Depletion of prey base: Ungulates are the main prey of dholes whose population is rapidly decreasing due to excessive hunting and habitat loss.
  • Persecution due to livestock predation and disease transfer from domestic and feral dogs.

Artificial Neural Network (ANN):

Why in News?

      Recently, the global Artificial Neural Network (ANN) Market report was published.

  • It is an information bank that delivers comprehensive information about the market ranging from the establishment to the predictable growth trend.
  • As per the current report, ANN Market to Set Phenomenal Growth from 2021 to 2028.

What is an Artificial Neural Network?

  • It is a vital subset of machine learning that helps computer scientists in their work on complex tasks, such as, strategizing, making predictions, and recognizing trends.
  • It is a computational model that mimics the way nerve cells work in the human brain. It is designed to simulate the way the human brain analyzes and processes information.
  • It is not like other machine learning algorithms that crunch numbers or organise data, it is an algorithm that learns from experience and repeated tasks performed by its users.
  • It is also known as a Neural Network (NN). ANN is a computational model based on the functions and structure of biological neural networks.
  • Information that runs through the network affects the structure of the artificial neural network due to the fact that a neural network learns or changes based on the input and output.
  • NNs are fed massive volumes of data in the beginning phases. In most cases, training is done by providing input and informing the network about what should be the output.
  • Many smartphone makers, for example, have recently integrated facial recognition technology.

What are the Major Drivers of ANN Growth?

  • Rapid digitization is anticipated to boost the deployment of artificial neural network platforms. Furthermore, an extensively used application of artificial neural networks is in the field of predictive analytics.
  • Predicting consumer behaviour and sales forecasting are expected to drive the artificial neural network market during the forecast period.
  • ANN helps marketers predict the outcome of a campaign by recognizing the trends from previous marketing campaigns.
  • While neural networks have been available for a while, it is mainly the recent emergence of Big data that has made this technology extremely useful in the field of marketing.
  • Cloud computing also provided enormous computing resources that are needed for ANNs to “work through” massive volumes of data.

What are the Limitations of ANN?

  • One of the most significant technological hurdles is the time it takes to train networks, which frequently demand an acceptable level of computational power for even complex tasks.
  • The second factor to consider is that neural networks are computer systems in which the user categorises the trained data and gets responses. They have the ability to fine-tune the responses, but they do not have access to the specific decision-making process.

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ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY 05 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

  • 100 Years of Chauri Chaura Incident

GS Paper 2:

  • Common Electoral Roll and Simultaneous Election
  • Pakistan –China Relationship & India:

GS Paper 3:

  • GAIL starts India’s maiden project of blending hydrogen into natural gas system in Indore
  • World Wetland Day and Two New Ramsar Sities

GS Paper 1

100 Years of Chauri Chaura Incident:

Why in News?

Recently, the Prime Minister paid tribute to the heroes of freedom struggle on completion of the hundred years of Chauri Chaura incident.

  • Chauri Chaura is a town in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh.
  • On 4th February, 1922, this town witnessed a violent incident – a large crowd of peasants set fire to a police station that killed 22 policemen. Due to this incident, Mahatma Gandhi called off the Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22).

What is the Background of the Incident?

  • On 1th August, 1920, Gandhiji had launched the Non-Cooperation Movement against the government.
    • It involved using swadeshi and boycott of foreign goods, especially machine made cloth, and legal, educational and administrative institutions, “refusing to assist a ruler who misrules”.
  • In the winter of 1921-22, volunteers of the Congress and the Khilafat Movement were organized into a national volunteer corps.
    • Khilafat Movement was a pan-Islamic force in India that arose in 1919 in an effort to salvage the Ottoman caliph as a symbol of unity among the Muslim community in India during the British raj.
    • The Congress supported the movement and Mahatma Gandhi sought to conjoin it to the Non-Cooperation Movement.

What was the incidence of Chauri Chaura and the Aftermath reactions?

  • Chauri Chaura Incident:
    • On 4th February, volunteers congregated in the town, and after the meeting, proceeded in a procession to the local police station, and to picket the nearby Mundera bazaar.
    • The police fired into the crowd killing some people and injuring many volunteers.
    • In retaliation, the crowd proceeded to set the police station on fire.
    • Some of the policemen who tried to escape were caught and battered to death. A lot of police property, including weapons, was destroyed.
  • Reaction of the British:
    • The British Raj prosecuted the accused aggressively.
    • A sessions court quickly sentenced 172 of the 225 accused to death. However, ultimately, only 19 of those convicted were hanged.
  • Reaction of Mahatma Gandhi:
    • He condemned the crime of the policemen’s killing. The volunteer groups in nearby villages were disbanded, and a Chauri Chaura Support Fund was set up to demonstrate “genuine sympathy” and seek atonement.
    • Gandhi decided to stop the Non-Cooperation Movement, which he saw as having been tainted by unforgivable violence.
    • He bent the Congress Working Committee to his will, and on 12th February, 1922, the satyagraha (movement) was formally suspended.
      • Gandhi on his part, justified himself on grounds of his unshakeable faith in non-violence.
  • Reaction of Other National Leaders:
    • Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders leading the Non-Cooperation movement were shocked that Gandhiji had stopped the struggle when the civil resistance had consolidated their position in the freedom movement.
    • Other leaders like Motilal Nehru and CR Das recorded their dismay at Gandhi’s decision and decided to establish the Swaraj Party.

What did the suspension of the Movement result into?

  • The disillusionment resulting from the suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement nudged many of the younger Indian nationalists towards the conclusion that India would not be able to throw off colonial rule through non-violence.
  • It was from the ranks of these impatient patriots that some of India’s most of the revolutionaries came into picture like Jogesh Chatterjee, Ramprasad Bismil, Sachin Sanyal, Ashfaqulla Khan, Jatin Das, Bhagat Singh, Bhagwati Charan Vohra, Masterda Surya Sen, and many others.
  • Besides, sudden termination of the Non-Cooperation Movement disillusioned the Khilafat movement leaders that created a rift between Congress and the muslim leaders.

GS Paper 2:

Common Electoral Roll and Simultaneous Election

Why in News?

Recently, the Law and Justice Minister told the Rajya Sabha that the Centre was not planning on amending the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to enable a common electoral roll and simultaneous elections to all electoral bodies in the country.

What is the Common Electoral Roll?

  • About:
    • Under the Common Electoral Roll, only one voter list will be used for Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and other elections.
  • Types of Electoral Rolls in India Currently:
    • Some state laws allow the SEC (State Election Commission) to borrow and use the Election Commission of India’s voter’s rolls for the local body elections.
    • In others, the state commission uses the EC’s voters list as the basis for the preparation and revision of rolls for municipality and panchayat elections.
    • Few states have their own electoral rolls and do not adopt EC’s roll for local body polls like those of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
    • The distinction stems from the fact that the supervision and conduct of elections in our country are entrusted with two constitutional authorities — the Election Commission (EC) of India and the State Election Commissions (SECs).
      • Election Commission (EC) of India: It was set up in 1950, the EC is charged with the responsibility of conducting polls to:
        • the offices of the President and Vice-President of India,
        • to Parliament, the state assemblies and the legislative councils.
      • State Election Commissions (SECs): The SECs, on the other hand, supervise municipal and panchayat elections. They are free to prepare their own electoral rolls for local body elections, and this exercise does not have to be coordinated with the EC.
  • Need:
    • A common electoral roll and simultaneous elections as a way to save an enormous amount of effort and expenditure.
      • It is argued that the preparation of a separate voters list causes duplication of the effort and the expenditure.
    • Earlier Recommendations:
      • The Law Commission recommended it in its 255th report in 2015 for a single electoral roll.
      • The EC too adopted a similar stance in 1999 and 2004.
        • The EC pointed out that it adds to the confusion among voters, since they may find their names present in one roll, but absent in another.
  • Implementation Process:
    • A Constitutional Amendment to Articles 243K and 243ZA is required.
      • Articles 243K and 243ZA deal with elections to panchayats and municipalities in the states. These give the power of superintendence, direction and control of preparation of electoral rolls and the conduct of these elections to the State Election Commission (SEC).
      • The amendment would make it mandatory to have a single electoral roll for all elections in the country.
    • Persuading the state governments to tweak their respective laws and adopt the Election Commission’s (EC) voters list for municipal and panchayat polls.
  • Challenges:
    • The boundaries of the EC’s polling station may not necessarily match that of the wards.
    • The change would require a massive consensus-building exercise.
    • What are Simultaneous Elections?
    • About:
        • The idea is about structuring the Indian election cycle in a manner so that elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies are synchronised together so that the election to both can be held within a given span of time.
      • Advantages:
        • Help keep a check on the poll expenses, party expenses, etc. and also save public money.
        • Reduce the burden on administrative setup and security forces.
        • Ensure timely implementation of the government policies and also ensure that the administrative machinery is engaged in developmental activities rather than electioneering.
        • Solve the problem of governance on the part of the politicians who are ruling. It is generally seen that for short term political gains from a particular assembly election, ruling politicians avoid taking a harsh long term decision which can ultimately help the country in the long run.
        • Provide more time to all the stakeholders i.e. political parties, Election Commission of India (ECI), paramilitary forces, civilians for the preparation of elections once in five years.
      • Challenges:
        • The synchronisation is a major problem considering the traditions and conventions that India’s Parliamentary system follows. The government is accountable to the Lower House and it is possible that the government can fall before completing  its term and the moment the government falls, there has to be an election.
        • It is difficult to convince and bring together all the political parties on the idea.
        • For holding simultaneous elections, the requirements for Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) will double as the ECI has to provide two sets (one for election to the Legislative Assembly and second for that to the Lok Sabha).
        • There will also be an additional requirement of the polling staff and for better security arrangements.

      Way Forward

      • Elections are held at different places every few months and it hampers the developmental work. Therefore, it’s a must to have a deep study and deliberation on the idea in order to prevent the impact of the model code of conduct on development works every few months.
      • There needs to be a consensus on whether the country needs one nation, one poll or not. All political parties should at least cooperate in debating this issue, once the debate starts, the public opinion can be taken into consideration. India being a mature democracy, can then follow the outcome of the debate

Pakistan –China Relationship & India:

Why in News?

Recently, the Government was questioned in Parliament on the pretext of foreign policy. The opposition has criticised the current policies as responsible for bringing Pakistan and China together.

  • In response, the External Affairs Minister has asserted that the two countries were always close and shared a rich history of cooperation on many fronts.

What is the Background of the Pakistan-China Relationship?

  • Initially, Pakistan was a member of two United States-led anti-communist military pacts, SEATO and CENTO, it was seen as part of the non-Soviet bloc – and China, under Mao Zedong, was on the other side of the aisle.
    • On the other hand, India had a working relationship with China. The two countries had the same anti-colonial, non-aligned approach and they together gave the policy of Panchsheel.
    • However, this relationship quickly changed due to the war between India and China in 1962.
  • 1962 War: The India-China war of 1962 led to China developing closer ties with Pakistan. 
    • In a boundary agreement in 1963, Pakistan ceded the Shaksgam Valley to China.
    • The Shaksgam Valley or the Trans Karakoram Tract is part of the Hunza-Gilgit region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and is a territory claimed by India but controlled by Pakistan.
    • The agreement laid the foundation of the Karakoram highway, built jointly by China and Pakistan in the 1970s.
  • 1965 War: Pakistan got support from China diplomatically in the 1965 India-Pakistan war.
    • In fact, analysts say that Pakistan was emboldened into aggression after India’s defeat against China in 1962.
  • US-China & Pakistan: The real diplomatic bonhomie began in the 1970s when Pakistan facilitated the outreach between the US-led by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and China’s Mao and Zhou Enlai.
  • Nuclear Cooperation: The relationship between China and Pakistan developed over the 1970s and ’80s. Nuclear cooperation was one of the key pillars, especially after India tested its nuclear device in 1974.
    • China has played a significant role in helping Pakistan develop its nuclear energy technology.
    • In September 1986, they signed an agreement to facilitate the transfer of civil nuclear technology.
    • In 1991, China agreed to supply Pakistan with its indigenously developed Qinshan-1 nuclear power plant.
    • After India tested its nuclear device in 1998, Pakistan followed suit —largely due to help from China.

What is the History of India-China ties?

  • The 1988 rapprochement between India and China with Rajiv Gandhi’s visit became a watershed moment.
  • There was a clear shift for China, where it saw ties with India from an economic lens and focused on trade, while separately talking to India on the border dispute.
    • From that point onwards China followed a cautious approach vis a vis India and Pakistan.
  • During the Kargil conflict of 1999, China advised Pakistan that they should withdraw troops and exercise self-control.
  • China adopted a similarly cautious approach after the Parliament attack in 2002, the Operation Parakram buildup, as well as the Mumbai terror attack in 2008.
  • This was also visible in the way China responded when the Balakot air strikes took place after the Pulwama attack in February 2019.

What is the Present Status of the India-China-Pakistan Triangle?

  • The US-India closeness started by the nuclear deal in 2005-06 left both China and Pakistan worried.
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative has manifested in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through the disputed territory claimed by India.
    • From China’s perspective, it offers access to the western Indian Ocean through the Gwadar port in Balochistan.
    • However, from India’s perspective, the Gwadar port is a part of the String of Pearls Strategy, for the encirclement of India.
  • India’s August 2019 move to abrogate Article 370 and revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir has brought China and Pakistan even closer.
  • In 2020, China signed a defence pact with Pakistan to enhance defence cooperation between the Pakistan Army and the People’s Liberation Army.
    • Pakistan has procured Chinese-made combat drones or unmanned combat aerial vehicles.
  • Pakistan endorses China’s position on its core issues including the South China Sea, Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Tibet.
  • After the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, China has now sensed an opportunity to get into Afghanistan for influence and resources with help from Pakistan.

What are the Implications of China-Pakistan Closeness For India?

  • Two Front War: Convergence between the two countries raises the real specter of a ‘two-front’ war.
  • Negotiation of Lost Territory: China now looks to negotiate to ‘recover’ Indian territories that it claims namely, Aksai Chin, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.
    • It also positions China to play a role in Kashmir and the region.
  • China’s Rise to Global Power Status: China and Pakistan both share a common objective to prevent India’s rise.
    • With China’s rise as a global power, India views its partnership with Pakistan as a greater concern than before.

Way Forward

  • Improving Relations in South Asian Neighbourhood: To begin with, India should do well to improve relations with its neighbours.
    • It should not be caught in an unfriendly neighbourhood given how China and Pakistan will attempt to contain and constrain India in the region.
  • Improving Relations in Extended Neighborhood: The government’s current engagement of the key powers in West Asia.
    • It should be further strengthened in order to ensure energy security, increase maritime cooperation and enhance goodwill in the extended neighbourhood.
  • Improving Relations With Russia: India must also ensure that its relationship with Russia is not sacrificed in favour of India-United States relations given that Russia could play a key role in defusing the severity of a regional gang up against India.
  • Improving Condition in Kashmir: From a long-view perspective, a political outreach to Kashmir aimed at pacifying the aggrieved citizens there would go a long way towards that end.
  • Improving Indo-Pacific Strategy: For India, the Indo-Pacific strategy involving the US, Australia, Japan and European partners is a key bulwark against the axis.

GS Paper 3

GAIL starts India’s maiden project of blending hydrogen into natural gas system in Indore:

Context:

In line with National Hydrogen Mission, GAIL has commenced India’s first-of-its-kind project of mixing hydrogen into the natural gas system to establish the techno-commercial feasibility of blending hydrogen in City Gas Distribution (CGD) network.

  • The project has been initiated in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
  • GAIL has started injecting grey hydrogen. This grey hydrogen would subsequently be replaced by green hydrogen.
  • The hydrogen blended natural gas will be supplied to Avantika Gas Ltd, one of GAIL’s joint venture with HPCL, for retailing of CNG to automobiles and piped natural gas to households in Indore.

The goal:

Government is planning to blend 15% green hydrogen with piped natural gas (PNG) for domestic, commercial and industrial consumption.

Importance of blending Hydrogen with natural gas:

  • It is easier and safer to use than hydrogen as it contains very low energy content from hydrogen i.e., up to 30% by volume.
  • Hydrogen-enriched compressed natural gas (HCNG) will ensure 70% more reduction in carbon monoxide emissions compared to CNG.
  • Power output of HCNG is also better than CNG ones.
  • Blending integrates concentrations of hydrogen into existing natural gas pipelines and reduces carbon intensity of methane.

Need for:

Zero-emission hydrogen is the latest buzzword around the world.

  • India has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2070 and hydrogen together with renewable energy is seen as key to achieving that goal.
  • For the transition, natural gas is the fuel and the government is looking to raise its share in the primary energy basket to 15 per cent by 2030 from the current 6.2 per cent.

 What is Hydrogen fuel?

  • Hydrogen is the lightest and first element on the periodic table. Since the weight of hydrogen is less than air, it rises in the atmosphere and is therefore rarely found in its pure form, H2.
  • At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is a nontoxic, nonmetallic, odorless, tasteless, colorless, and highly combustible diatomic gas. 

Occurrence of Hydrogen:

  • Molecular hydrogen is not available on Earth in convenient natural reservoirs.
  • Most hydrogen on Earth is bonded to oxygen in water and to carbon in live or dead and/or fossilized biomass. It can be created by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.
  • Significance of Hydrogen Based economy:

    • Due to its ability to power fuel cells in zero-emission electric vehicles, its potential for domestic production, and the fuel cell’s potential for high efficiency hydrogen is considered an alternative.
    • Water is the only by-product that results from the usage of hydrogen fuel that makes the fuel 100 per cent clean.
    • Hydrogen can also serve as fuel for internal combustion engines.
    • The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas contains about the same as the energy in 1 gallon (6.2 pounds, 2.8 kilograms) of gasoline.

     Government Missions towards hydrogen fuel:

    • The Finance Minister in the Union budget for 2020-21 formally announced the National Hydrogen Mission which aims for generation of hydrogen from green power resources.
    • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has also disclosed that the draft regulations for NHM will be finalised by the end of this month and will thereafter proceed for approval of the Union Cabinet.

    Challenges for India:

    • Economic sustainability of extracting green or blue hydrogen.
    • The technology used in production and use of hydrogen like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen fuel cell technology are at nascent stage and are expensive which in turn increases the cost of production of hydrogen.
    • The maintenance costs for fuel cells post-completion of a plant can be costly, like in South Korea.
    • The commercial usage of hydrogen as a fuel and in industries requires mammoth investment in R&D of such technology and infrastructure for production, storage, transportation and demand creation for hydrogen

World Wetland Day and Two New Ramsar Sities:

Why in News?

Recently, World Wetlands Day was celebrated on the 2nd of February 2022 across the globe.

  • On the occasion, “National Wetland Decadal Change Atlas” was prepared by the Space Applications Center (SAC – one of the major centers of ISRO).
    • The original Atlas was released by SAC in 2011 and has over the years been used extensively by all the State Governments also in their planning processes.
  • Two new Ramsar sites (Wetlands of International Importance), Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat and Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in UP were also announced on the occasion.

Why is The Day Celebrated on 2nd February ?

  • This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2nd February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar.
    • The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
    • The countries with the most Ramsar Sites are the United Kingdom (175) and Mexico (142), as per the Ramsar List. Bolivia has the largest area with 148,000 sq km under the Convention protection.
  • It was first celebrated in 1997.
  • Theme for 2022: Wetlands Action for People and Nature.

What is a Wetland and its Significance ?

  • Wetlands:
    • Wetlands are ecosystems saturated with water, either seasonally or permanently. They include mangroves, marshes, rivers, lakes, deltas, floodplains and flooded forests, rice-fields, coral reefs, marine areas no deeper than 6 meters at low tide, as well as human-made wetlands such as waste-water treatment ponds and reservoirs.
  • Significance:
    • Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment. They mitigate floods, protect coastlines and build community resilience to disasters, reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality.
    • Wetlands are critical to human and planet life. More than 1 billion people depend on them for a living and 40% of the world’s species live and breed in wetlands.
    • They are a vital source for food, raw materials, genetic resources for medicines, and hydropower.
    • 30% of land-based carbon is stored in peatland.
    • They play an important role in transport, tourism and the cultural and spiritual well-being of people.
    • Many wetlands are areas of natural beauty and many are important to Aboriginal people.

What are the Threats related to Wetlands ?

What is the status of Wetlands in India ?

  • India has a network of 49 Ramsar sites covering an area of 10,93,636 hectares, the highest in South Asia.
    • Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in UP provides a safe wintering and staging ground for a large number of species of the Central Asian Flyway while Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary (Gujarat) is a coastal wetland with rich avifaunal diversity providing a safe habitat to endangered and vulnerable species.
  • In India, according to the National Wetland Inventory and Assessment compiled by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), wetlands are 4.63% of the total geographical area of the country.
    • India has 19 types of wetlands.
    • In state-wise distribution of wetlands, Gujarat is at the top (17.56% of total geographical area of the state or 22.7%of total wetlands areas of the country thanks to a long coastline.
    • It is followed by Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.

What is the Significance of Ramsar Listing ?

  • It is like an ISO certification. They can take it off the list as well if it doesn’t meet their standards continuously. It’s a feather in the cap but there is a cost to it and that cost can be paid only if there is brand value.
  • Ramsar tag makes it incumbent upon authority to strengthen the protection regime there and also creates defenses against encroachment.
  • A number of species of birds prefer to avoid the Himalaya and instead choose the route passing through Afghanistan and Pakistan to enter the Indian sub-continent via Gujarat and Rajasthan. Thus, Gujarat becomes the first landing point of many international migratory species of ducks, waders, plovers, terns, gulls etc and shorebirds as well as birds of prey.
  • Wetlands in India act as foraging and resting grounds for the migratory birds during winter.
  • According to Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), CAF (Central Asian Flyway), which includes 30 countries, covers at least 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species, including 29 globally threatened and near-threatened species, which breed, migrate and winter within the region.

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ASPIRANTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY 04 FEB 2022

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

  • Philosohper Saint Ramanujacharya

GS Paper 2:

  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana
  • Promoting Blue Economy

GS Paper 3:

  • Saffron Bowl project

GS Paper 1

Philosohper Saint Ramanujacharya

Why in News?

The Prime Minister will inaugurate the Statue of Equality, a statue of Ramanujacharya, on the outskirts of Hyderabad, Telangana.

  • India is celebrating his 1,000th birth anniversary as the ‘Festival of Equality’, upholding the view that the world is one family, ‘vasudhaiva kutumbakam’,”

What Are the Basic Facts About Statue ? 

  • It is a 216-feet tall statue, which is made of ‘panchaloha’, a combination of five metals: gold, silver, copper, brass, and zync.
  • It is among one of the tallest metallic statues in sitting position in the world.
  • The statue is mounted on a 54-feet high base building named ‘Bhadra Vedi’. It has floors devoted for a vedic digital library and research center, ancient Indian texts, a theater, an educational gallery detailing many works of Sri Ramanujacharya.

Who was Ramanujacharya ?

  • Born in 1017 in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu, Ramanujacharya is revered as a Vedic philosopher and social reformer.
  • He was named Lakshmana at the time of his birth. He was also referred to as Ilaya Perumal which means the radiant one.
  • He traveled across India, advocating equality and social justice.
  • He revived the Bhakti movement, and his preachings inspired other Bhakti schools of thought. He is considered to be the inspiration for poets like Annamacharya, Bhakta Ramdas, Thyagaraja, Kabir, and Meerabai.
  • He is famous as the chief proponent of Vishishtadvaita subschool of Vedānta.
    • VishishtAdvaita (literally “Advaita with uniqueness; qualifications”) is a non-dualistic school of Vedanta philosophy.
    • It is non-dualism of the qualified whole, in which Brahman alone is seen as the Supreme Reality, but is characterized by multiplicity.
    • He went on to write nine scriptures known as the navaratnas, and composed numerous commentaries on Vedic scriptures.
    • Ramanuja’s most important writings include his commentary on the Vedanta Sutras (the Sri Bhasya, or “True Commentary”), and his commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita (the Gitabhasya, or “Commentary on the Gita”).
    • His other writings include the Vedartha Samgraha (“Summary of the Meaning of the Veda”), the Vedantasara (“Essence of Vedanta”), and Vedantadipa (“Lamp of Vedanta”)
    • He has also stressed the need of being in tune with nature and not to over-exploit.

Why is it called the Statue of Equality?

  • Ramanuja was an advocate of social equality among all sections of people centuries ago, and encouraged temples to open their doors to everyone irrespective of caste or position in society at a time when people of many castes were forbidden from entering them.
  • He took education to those who were deprived of it. His greatest contribution is the propagation of the concept of “vasudhaiva kutumbakam”, which translates as “all the universe is one family”.
  • He traveled across India for several decades, propagating his ideas of social equality and universal brotherhood from temple podiums.
  • He embraced the socially marginalized and condemned, and asked royal courts to treat them as equals.
  • He spoke of universal salvation through devotion to God, compassion, humility, equality, and mutual respect, which is known as Sri Vaishnavam Sampradaya.
  • Ramanujacharya liberated millions from social, cultural, gender, educational, and economic discrimination with the foundational conviction that every human is equal regardless of nationality, gender, race, caste, or creed.

GS Paper 2

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana:

Why in News?

     Recently, the Government has clarified that Aadhaar of Husbands is not mandatory under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, PMMVY, to facilitate the inclusion of single mothers and abandoned mothers.

What is Aadhar?

  • Aadhar is a 12-digit unique identification (UID) number, which is mandated by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to all the residents of India.
  • UIDAI is a statutory authority established on 12 July 2016 by the Government of India under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, following the provisions of the Aadhaar Act 2016.
  • The UIDAI was initially set up by the Government of India in January 2009, as an attached office under the aegis of the Planning Commission

What is PMMVY?

  • It is a maternity benefit programme being implemented in all districts of the country with effect from 1st January, 2017.
  • It is a centrally sponsored scheme being executed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • Cash benefits are provided to pregnant women in their bank account directly to meet enhanced nutritional needs and partially compensate for wage loss.

What makes this Scheme Different?

  • Implementation of the scheme is closely monitored by the central and state governments through the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana – Common Application Software (PMMVY-CAS).
  • PMMVY-CAS is a web based software application that enables tracking the status of each beneficiary under the scheme, resulting in expedited, accountable and better grievance redressal.

Who are the Beneficiaries?

  • All Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW&LM), excluding those who are in regular employment with the Central Government or the State Governments or PSUs or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force.
  • All eligible Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers who have their pregnancy on or after 1st January 2017 for the first child in the family.

What are the Benefits under the Scheme?

  • Beneficiaries receive a cash benefit of Rs. 5,000 in three installments on fulfilling the following conditions:
    • Early registration of pregnancy
    • Ante-natal check-up
    • Registration of the birth of the child and completion of the first cycle of vaccination for the first living child of the family.
  • The eligible beneficiaries also receive cash incentive under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). Thus, on an average, a woman gets Rs. 6,000.

What are the Other Schemes related to Women?

Promoting Blue Economy:

Why in News?

Recently, the union minister of science and technology and earth science said that the Blue Economy is the sixth dimension of Government of India’s Vision of New India by 2030.

  • A Draft Policy document on Blue Economy has been prepared by the Ministry Of Earth Sciences taking into consideration the reports of the expert working groups which emphasizes holistic development and growth of India’s Blue Economy.

What is India’s Vision of New India by 2030?

  • In the Union Budget of India 2019 the Finance Minister laid out the Vision 2030 while highlighting India’s transformation in the last five years.
  • India is poised to become a USD5 tn economy by 2025 and aspires to become a USD10 tn economy by 2030.
  • The dimensions of Vision-2030 outlined are as follows:
    • To create physical and social infrastructure for ten trillion dollar economy and to provide ease of living.
    • Digital India led by the youths with innumerable start-ups and million of jobs.
    • To make India pollution free by focusing on Electrical Vehicles and renewables.
    • Rural industrialisation using modern technologies to generate massive employment.
    • Clean rivers, with safe drinking water to all Indians and efficient use of water in irrigation using micro-irrigation techniques.
    • Besides scaling up Sagarmala, India’s coastline and ocean waters will power development
    • Through our space programme – Gaganyaan, India becoming the launch-pad of satellites for the World
    • Self sufficiency in food production and producing food in the most organic way.
    • A healthy India by 2030 and a distress free health care and wellness system for all. Ayushman Bharat and women participation would be an important component in it.
    • Employees working with elected Government, transforming India into Minimum Government Maximum Governance nation.

What is the Blue Economy?

  • The concept was introduced by Gunter Pauli in his 2010 book- “The Blue Economy: 10 years, 100 innovations, 100 million jobs”.
  • It is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health.
  • It advocates the greening of ocean development strategies for higher productivity and conservation of ocean’s health.
  • Blue Economy emphasizes on integration of development of the ocean economy with social inclusion, environmental sustainability, combined with innovative business models.
  • It encompasses–
    • Renewable Energy: Sustainable marine energy can play a vital role in social and economic development.
    • Fisheries: Sustainable fisheries can generate more revenue, more fish and help restore fish stocks.
    • Maritime Transport: Over 80% of international goods traded are transported by sea.
    • Tourism: Ocean and coastal tourism can bring jobs and economic growth.
    • Climate Change: Oceans are an important carbon sink (blue carbon) and help mitigate climate change.
    • Waste Management: Better waste management on land can help oceans recover.

What is the Significance of the Blue Economy?

  • High Return on Investment: According to a research commissioned by the high-level panel for a sustainable ocean economy shows that USD1 invested in key ocean activities yields five times i.e. USD5 in return, often more.
  • Synergy With SDG: It supports all of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG14 ‘life below water’.
  • Sustainable Energy: Supporting the increasing demand for renewable energy, offshore regions have tremendous potential in the form of offshore wind, waves, ocean currents including tidal currents, and thermal energy.
  • Importance For India: With an over 7,500-km-long coastline spread across nine coastal states, 12 major, and 200 minor ports, India’s blue economy supports 95% of the country’s business through transportation and contributes an estimated 4% to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

What are the Steps taken to Promote Blue Economy?

  • Deep Ocean Mission: It was launched with an intention to develop technologies to harness the living and non-living resources from the deep-oceans.
  • India-Norway Task Force on Blue Economy for Sustainable Development: It was inaugurated jointly by both the countries in 2020 to develop and follow up joint initiatives between the two countries.
  • Sagarmala Project: The Sagarmala project is the strategic initiative for port-led development through the extensive use of IT enabled services for modernization of ports.
  • O-SMART: India has an umbrella scheme by the name of O-SMART which aims at regulated use of oceans, marine resources for sustainable development.
  • Integrated Coastal Zone Management: It focuses on conservation of coastal and marine resources, and improving livelihood opportunities for coastal communities etc.
  • National Fisheries Policy: India has a National Fisheries policy for promoting ‘Blue Growth Initiative’ which focuses on sustainable utilization of fisheries wealth from marine and other aquatic resources.

Way Forward

  • With its vast maritime interests, the blue economy occupies a vital potential position in India’s economic growth.
  • It could well be the next multiplier of GDP and well-being, provided sustainability and socio-economic welfare are kept center-stage.
  • India should look to adopt the Gandhian approach of balancing economic benefits with sustainability for meeting the broader goals of growth, employment generation, equity and protection of environment.

GS Paper 3

Saffron Bowl project:

Why in News?

        North East Center for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR) under Saffron Bowl project has identified a few locations in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya for saffron cultivation.

  • The total cost of the whole project is Rs. 17.68 lakhs for Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.
  • NECTAR is an autonomous body under the Department of Science & Technology (DST) , which supported a pilot project to explore the feasibility of growing saffron in the North East region of India, with the same quality and higher quantity.

What is the Reason for Extending Saffron Cultivation to the North- East?

  • Initially, Saffron production was confined to very few and specific regions of Kashmir.
  • Though the National Saffron Mission brought in several measures, the area of production was too low. There were not enough bore wells in the saffron growing regions.
  • India cultivates about 6 to 7 tonnes of saffron while the demand is 100 tonne.
  • To meet the growing demand of saffron the Ministry of Science and Technology, through the DST, is now looking at extending its cultivation to some states in the Northeast (Sikkim now, and later to Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh).
  • There is a huge similarity of climate and geographical conditions between Kashmir and few regions of Northeast.
    • In Arunachal Pradesh, there is a good growth of organic saffron with flowers. In Meghalaya, sample plantations were grown at Cherrapunji, Mawsmai and Lalingtop sites.
  • It will also diversify agriculture and provide new opportunities to the farmers in the North-East.

What is Saffron and Why is it Important?

  • Saffron:

    • Saffron is a plant whose dried stigmas (thread-like parts of the flower) are used to make saffron spice.
    • Saffron cultivation is believed to have been introduced in Kashmir by Central Asian immigrants around the 1st Century BCE.
    • It has been associated with traditional Kashmiri cuisine and represents the rich cultural heritage of the region.
    • It is a very precious and costly product.
    • In ancient Sanskrit literature, saffron is referred to as ‘bahukam’.
    • It is cultivated and harvested in the Karewa (highlands) of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Importance:
    • It rejuvenates health and is used in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes.
    • It has been associated with traditional Kashmiri cuisine and represents the rich cultural heritage of the region.

What are the Seasons and Conditions of Cultivation?

  • Season:
    • In India, saffron Corms (seeds) are cultivated during the months of June and July and at some places in August and September.
    • It starts flowering in October.

  • Conditions:
    • Altitude: Saffron grows well at an altitude of 2000 meters above sea level. It needs a photoperiod (sunlight) of 12 hours.
    • Soil: It grows in many different soil types but thrives best in calcareous (soil that has calcium carbonate in abundance), humus-rich and well-drained soil with a pH between 6 and 8.
    • Climate: For saffron cultivation, we need an explicit climatological summer and winter with temperatures ranging from no more than 35 or 40 degree Celsius in summer to about –15 or –20 degree Celsius in winter.
    • Rainfall: It also requires adequate rainfall that is 1000-1500 mm per annum.

What are the Major Saffron Producing Regions in India ?

What are Other Initiatives to Promote Saffron Cultivation?

  • The National Saffron Mission was sanctioned by the central government in the year 2010 in order to extend support for creation of irrigation facilities through tube wells and sprinkler sets which would help in production of better crops in the area of saffron production.
  • Recently, the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (CSIR-IHBT) and the Government of Himachal Pradesh, have jointly decided to increase the production of the two spices namely, Saffron and Heeng (asafoetida).
  • Under this plan, IHBT will be introducing new varieties of saffron and heeng from the exporting countries and will be standardized under Indian conditions.

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