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Daily Current Affairs

1-November-2023

1. NHRC seeks report on death of boy

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Context:

  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken cognisance of an incident involving the death of a five-year-old boy.
  • The boy tragically lost his life after an iron gate fell on him.
  • In response to this incident, the NHRC has issued notices to key authorities, including the DDA Vice-Chairman, Delhi Chief Secretary, and Police Commissioner.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC):

         The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is a statutory body established under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. It is an independent body that investigates allegations of human rights violations and makes recommendations to the government for remedial action.

Functions of the NHRC:

  • To inquire into complaints of violation of human rights or neglect of duties and responsibilities by public servants.
  • To recommend measures for their effective implementation.
  • To promote awareness and protection of human rights.
  • To review the safeguards provided by or under the Constitution or any law for the protection of human rights and to recommend measures for their improvement.
  • To take any other step as may be deemed necessary or expedient for the promotion of human rights and for the protection of human rights.

The NHRC is a quasi-judicial body, meaning that it has the powers of a civil court to summon witnesses, examine documents, and receive evidence on oath. 

The NHRC has a wide range of powers to investigate human rights violations, including:

  • The power to summon witnesses and examine documents.
  • The power to receive evidence on oath.
  • The power to visit any jail or other place of detention.
  • The power to call for reports from the government and other authorities.

The NHRC can make a variety of recommendations to the government for remedial action, including:

  • Recommendations for compensation to victims of human rights violations.
  • Recommendations for disciplinary action against public servants who are responsible for human rights violations.
  • Recommendations for changes to laws and policies to prevent future human rights violations.

The NHRC has played a significant role in promoting and protecting human rights in India. It has investigated a wide range of human rights violations, including:

  • Extrajudicial killings by the police.
  • Torture and ill-treatment of detainees.
  • Discrimination against women and minorities.
  • Violations of the rights of children and workers.

2. Staff shortage, financial dependency plague local governance

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Context:

  • An annual survey of Indian cities highlights financial dependence on State governments for the majority of local governments.
  • Limited control is observed in terms of hiring and work distribution among local governments.
  • The survey titled “Annual Survey of India’s City-Systems (ASICS) 2023” was conducted by the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, a non-profit organization.

Issues with local governance in India:

  • Lack of capacity:Local governments often lack the capacity to effectively deliver services, due to a shortage of skilled personnel and resources.
  • Corruption: Corruption is a major problem in local governance in India, leading to the misallocation of resources and the underdelivery of services.
  • Political interference: Local governments are often subject to political interference from state and central governments, which can undermine their autonomy and accountability.
  • Lack of transparency and accountability:Local governments are often not transparent or accountable to the public, making it difficult for citizens to hold them accountable for their performance.
  • Inequitable distribution of resources:Resources are often inequitably distributed between local governments, with some areas receiving more resources than others.
  • Lack of citizen participation:Citizen participation in local governance is often low, making it difficult for local governments to be responsive to the needs of the community.

Way forward:

  • Capacity building:Local governments need to be provided with the necessary capacity to effectively deliver services. This can be done through training and development programs, as well as by providing local governments with access to resources and expertise.
  • Anti-corruption measures:Strong anti-corruption measures need to be implemented to address the problem of corruption in local governance. This includes measures to increase transparency and accountability, as well as to punish those who engage in corrupt practices.
  • Empowering local governments: Local governments need to be empowered to function autonomously, free from political interference. This can be done by strengthening local government institutions and by providing them with greater financial and administrative autonomy.
  • Promoting citizen participation:Citizen participation in local governance needs to be promoted. This can be done by increasing awareness of local government issues and by providing citizens with opportunities to participate in the decision-making process.
  • Equitable distribution of resources: Resources need to be equitably distributed between local governments, based on their needs. This can be done by developing transparent and objective criteria for the allocation of resources.

Question: Identify and discuss the key challenges facing local governance in India, and suggest measures to address these challenges.

3. How cargo transport can be improved

Topic: GS3 – Indian Railways.

Introduction

  • IR carried 62 million tonnes (MT) of general cargo in 2018-19.
  • This is nowhere near the 194-292 MT projected by Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) in 2008.

Reasons for the decline in general cargo loading

  • High parcel tariff
  • Improper terminals
  • Inconsistent weighbridges
  • Excessive penal charges
  • Unreliable transit times
  • Complex booking and delivery mechanisms
  • Self-imposed environmental restrictions
  • VPH parcel trains are counterproductive

Inadequacy of containerisation

  • Domestic cargo moved by containers is a mere 1% of IR’s loading and 0.3% of total freight in the country.
  • High haulage rates is one of the reasons of such under-performance.
  • Risk involved in developing the market.
  • Difficulty in sustaining a developed market.

Elephant in the room

  • General cargo has thousands of buyers and sellers and usually their shipment sizes are a few to hundreds of tonnes.
  • The IR has no service to meet their needs.

Road ahead

  • General cargo is segmented into three categories — highly time sensitive (HTSG), medium time sensitive (MTSG) and low time sensitive (LTSG).
  • HTSG cargo should continue to be moved by passenger trains.
  • MTSG and LTSG cargo should be moved under the IR freight rates,which are lower than truck rates.
  • Shippers should be permitted to book individual wagons with provision to run a train to the schedule even if the train is not fully loaded

4. The reason for falling fertility levels

Topic: GS3 – health sector

Context:

  • Fertility levels have dropped significantly in developed Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, and Singapore despite higher living standards.
  • Researchers suggest that evolutionary mismatch may be the reason behind falling fertility rates.

More on this article:

  • Evolutionary mismatch occurs when traits that were advantageous for survival in the past become detrimental in modern times.
  • In ancient, egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies, seeking social status was based on contribution to the group rather than hoarding resources.
  • Modern societies focus on displaying social status through resource accumulation, leading to competition within a much larger and economically disparate population.
  • In East Asian countries, social status is highly valued, and individuals prioritize education, career, and wealth as status markers.
  • The pursuit of social status can lead to over-investment in status-seeking activities and underinvestment in reproduction, contributing to low fertility rates.
  • Perceived costs of raising children can increase as people compete for social status, leading to choices like pursuing unnecessary higher degrees or selecting expensive schools.
  • The competitive “rat race” for social status may compromise individuals’ decisions to have children.

5. ‘Regional diversity: a quest for equitable recognition within Indian Union’

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Introduction

  • Karnataka celebrates 50 years of its formation.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent call to root out regionalism demands reflection.

Regionalism is the essence of India’s diversity

  • Regionalism is not a divisive element; it is the bedrock of India’s unity.
  • Karnataka’s proud heritage and identity stand as an integral part of the Indian federation.
  • The BJP’s ideological influence,derived from figures such as V.D. Savarkar, advocating the notion of “one nation, one language, and one culture”, appears to overshadow the distinctiveness of regional identities.
  • Preserving regional identity is not about seclusion or exclusivity but about fostering a sense of belonging and pride.

Federalism and regional identity

  • In a federal structure,it is crucial to recognise and respect the individual identities that make up the whole.
  • Nourishing these identities entails promoting regional languages,traditions, art forms, and history, ensuring rights over natural resources and fair treatment in empowering the States.
  • Simultaneously,it involves ensuring the seamless amalgamation of these diverse regional identities into the larger fabric of the country.

Noticeable disparities

  • Noticeable disparities in the allocation of relief funds for drought-stricken areas.
  • Inaction on crucial water-sharing projects.
  • Downtrend in the grants received from the Union government.
  • Failure in releasing funds for the Bengaluru suburban rail project.
  • Sidelining of Karnataka’s rich cultural identity.

Conclusion

  • Karnataka’s plea for recognition does not stem from a desire for isolation but from a call for just inclusion.
  • Recognising and nurturing regional identity within the federal framework only strengthens India’s national fabric.
  • Federal autonomy allows States to cater to their unique needs and challenges,ultimately contributing to a stronger, more cohesive nation.
  • Federal fairness is not just Karnataka’s plea; it is a call for a more unified,just India.

6. Maratha Quota

Topic: GS2- Polity

Context:

  • The state government of Maharashtra has formed a group comprising three former High Court judges to provide guidance on the legal struggle pending in the Supreme Court, as the Maratha quota protests have become more intense.
  • The Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court have both expressed opinion on the long-standing demand for reservation made by the Marathas, who make up around thirty percent of the state’s population.

About Maratha:

  • Diverse Group: The Marathas comprise various castes, including peasants and landowners, making up approximately 33% of Maharashtra’s population.
  • Historical Warrior Caste: Historically, the Marathas have been identified as a ‘warrior’ caste known for their substantial land holdings.
  • Political Representation: Since the establishment of Maharashtra state in 1960, 12 out of 20 chief ministers, including Eknath Shinde, have been from the Maratha community.

Root Causes of Maratha Reservation Demand:

  • Hinterland Origin: The demand for Maratha reservation has its roots in the underdeveloped areas of Marathwada and other regions in Maharashtra.
  • Core Agitating Districts: Districts like Beed, Parbhani, Nanded, Aurangabad, and Jalna in Marathwada have been the epicenters of the agitation, and the movement subsequently spread to other parts of the state.
  • Economic Underdevelopment: Many of these areas face economic and industrial underdevelopment, exacerbating the challenges faced by the local population. Consistent droughts compound these issues.
  • Lack of Industrial Growth: Unlike western Maharashtra, Marathwada lacks substantial industrial development, leaving residents with limited employment opportunities beyond agriculture.
  • Agricultural Unsustainability: As agriculture becomes increasingly unsustainable, rural youth in Marathwada have limited options, leading to migration or involvement in aggressive political activism, often financially supported by certain political parties or leaders.
  • Government Job Aspirations: With a scarcity of private sector jobs, youth in Marathwada focus on securing government jobs through competitive examinations. As a result, the demand for reservations in these jobs becomes a prominent issue.

Formation of Expert Committee:

  • The state administration appointed retired Justice Sandeep K. Shinde as the chairman of a five-member committee to handle the continuing Maratha quota protests.
  • The goal of this committee is to investigate the Kunbi (OBC) certificate-issuing procedure for Marathas by utilizing historical records, such as income records from the Nizam era.
  • The state Cabinet has approved the committee’s initial report after it reviewed a sizable amount of documents.
  • In addition, the state has appointed a panel of former High Court justices to serve as an expert committee to support its curative case in the Supreme Court.

Bombay High Court Ruling in 2019:

  • A 16% reservation for Marathas in government jobs and education was suggested by the then-BJP government in Maharashtra in 2018, however it was later contested in court.
  • Following the recommendations of the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC), the Bombay High Court affirmed the constitutional legality of the Maratha quota in June 2019, but decreased the reservation to 12% in education and 13% in employment.
  • The High Court stressed that although reservations should not go above 50%, they may be exceeded in some situations and where quantitative data demonstrating backwardness is provided.

Basis for the High Court’s Decision:

  • The findings of the MSBCC, which carried out an extensive study spanning almost 45,000 Maratha families in several talukas with a population percentage of over 50% Maratha, were largely relied upon by the Bombay High Court.
  • The Maratha group has considerable social, economic, and educational backwardness, according to the Commission’s report, which was released in November 2015.
  • It included facts about how Maratha households lived in kachha houses, were mostly farmers, and had restricted access to tap water.
  • The study revealed that a significant percentage of Marathas lacked even the most basic schooling or were illiterate.

Supreme Court’s Rejection of Maratha Quota:

  • The Maratha quota was overturned by a five-judge Supreme Court Constitution Bench in May 2021 on the grounds that it went beyond the 50% reserve cap set forth in the court’s 1992 Indra Sawhney (Mandal)
  • The court described Marathas as a “dominant forward class” that had been assimilated into the national mainstream and contended that there were no exceptional circumstances to warrant going over the 50% criterion.
  • Several parties, notably attorney Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil, contested the quota in the Supreme Court.
  • The state’s review plea was denied by the Supreme Court in April of that year, so upholding the court’s decision to invalidate the Maratha quota.

Way Forward in Addressing the Maratha Reservation Issue

Data Collection

  • Conducting a comprehensive and data-driven survey of the Maratha community’s socio-economic backwardness is imperative. This survey should aim to collect quantifiable and contemporaneous data that reflect the challenges faced by the community.
  • Establishing a strong factual basis for the reservation demand is essential in building a compelling case.

Political Consensus

  • Achieving political consensus among various parties and communities is vital to finding a balanced and sustainable solution.
  • Engaging in constructive dialogues and negotiations with political leaders from different backgrounds can help build support for a resolution that respects the interests of all stakeholders.

Legal Clarity

  • While pursuing a resolution, it’s crucial to ensure adherence to legal principles and directives, particularly those set by the Supreme Court. The state should work closely with legal experts to explore legal avenues that align with constitutional provisions and court rulings.
  • Striking a balance between social justice and legal constraints is essential.

Review and Dialogue

  • The issue should be subject to ongoing review and continued dialogue with all relevant stakeholders. This includes engaging with OBC organizations and other communities that have concerns about the impact of the Maratha reservation on their existing quotas.
  • Regular consultations and open communication can help address grievances and build consensus over time.

7. Monsoon Variability in India: A Closer Look

Topic: Climate Change

Context:

  • This year’s monsoon season in India concluded with 94% of total rainfall, which is the eighth year in a row that the country’s rainfall has been roughly normal.
  • There have been notable differences in the rainfall’s temporal and spatial distribution, despite the appearance of consistency. There were significant daily variations in the amount of rainfall in many districts, with some days seeing tremendous downpours and prolonged dry periods.
  • Climate change is probably a factor in the increased variability of monsoon rainfall; thus, India needs to prepare for unpredictable weather.

District-Level Variability:

  • According to a Climate Trends analysis, typical daily rainfall throughout the four-month monsoon period was exceptionally rare at the district level.
  • Just 6% of the over 85,000 district rain days were deemed typical.
  • On days when rain was predicted, however, more than 60% of the daily district-level rainfall revealed shortfalls of more than 60% or no rain at all.
  • There were also a lot of large excess days, with rainfall that was 60% or more than average.

Regional Variations:

  • Variations in the amount of rainfall were also noted at the regional level. While the eastern and northeastern sections of India received approximately 80% of the predicted rainfall, the northwest and central regions received above 100%.
  • The majority of the monsoon season in Southern India also saw substantial rainfall deficits, which culminated at 92%.
  • Nine of the past ten years have seen below-average rainfall in the eastern and northeastern regions, with significant deficits on multiple occasions.

Kerala’s Declining Rainfall:

  • Kerala, which is renowned for receiving a lot of rain, saw a 34% decrease in monsoon rainfall this year, and its total rainfall has been trending downward in recent years.
  • Although the causes of this drop are unclear, it is an alarming phenomenon.

Factors Contributing to Erratic Monsoon:

  • Although the unpredictable monsoon behavior is frequently attributed to climate change, other variables are also at play.
  • Large rainfall deficits during the monsoon have historically resulted from El Nino episodes in the Pacific Ocean; however, this year’s El Nino did not have the same effect.
  • Prolonged cyclones, episodes of intense precipitation, and fluctuations in El Nino intensity throughout different months all had an impact on the monsoon.

Climate Change and Uncertainty:

  • The degree of uncertainty around weather events has increased due to climate change.
  • Unpredictability in monsoon rainfall is predicted to persist despite attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are a contributing factor to climate change and worldwide warming.
  • Reducing urban floods, strengthening infrastructure resistance to climate change, and being more ready for extreme weather occurrences are examples of coping mechanisms.
  • With weather patterns changing, it is more crucial than ever to be ready for anything unexpected.

8. Recalling Pegasus, when Israeli-made spyware was used to ‘target phones’

Topic: GS3- Science and Tech

Context:

  • Opposition party leaders disclosed that they were notified by Apple through a threat notificationabout a possible state-sponsored spyware attack on their iPhones.
  • Some people expressed concern about this alert, drawing comparisons to the Pegasus virus attack that occurred two years ago and affected lawmakers and activists across several nations.
  • Allegations of government surveillance and invasions of citizens’ privacy arose from the Pegasus case.

Pegasus Case Recall:

  • A global investigation study published in July 2021 revealed that Pegasus spyware created by the Israeli cybersecurity firm NSO Group was being used to target mobile phones across the globe, including India.
  • Though it did not offer any hard proof to support its denials, the Indian government refuted the accusations on multiple occasions.
  • When the Supreme Court heard the case, it emphasized press freedom and the right to privacy. It also questioned the use of “national security” as a pretext by the government to suppress information.

What can Pegasus do?

  • Once installed, the spyware seeks a great deal of access, including the ability to track a user’s position, read emails, get contact lists, take screenshots, download media, retrieve SMS messages and instant messaging, access browsing history, and operate the phone’s microphone and cameras, among other features.
  • It is also possible to remotely erase Pegasus. It is extremely difficult to find and leaves very little evidence after deletion.
  • There are suggestions that it was used to fabricate evidence against activists in the Bhima Koregaon case because it can also be used to plant texts, emails, and other things.

Expert Committee and Mandate:

  • An Expert Committee chaired by Justice R.V. Raveendran was designated by the Supreme Court on October 27, 2021, to look into the Pegasus allegations.
  • The committee was assigned the responsibility of ascertaining the source of Pegasus, verifying if the petitioners were singled out, and evaluating the legal justification for employing spyware such as Pegasus against citizens of India.
  • It was also anticipated to offer suggestions for a framework of laws and policies pertaining to cybersecurity and privacy protection.

Findings of Committee:

  • The committee examined across 29 phones, and while some malware was found in five of them, they did not uncover any concrete proof that Pegasus was used.
  • The government’s partial cooperation with the panel was pointed out by the court. The committee’s report was delivered in three sections; the supervising judge’s report was contained in the third section, which was kept under seal.
  • Four weeks later, the case was scheduled for another hearing, but nothing has happened since.

Conclusion

  • Concerns about privacy and government monitoring are raised by the possibility of state-sponsored spyware attacks on the iPhones of opposition leaders.
  • This problem is representative of a larger discussion on digital security and the requirement for openness regarding surveillance methods.

9.Southern peninsular India sees 6th driest October in 123 years; 60% less rainfall

Topic: Geography

Context:

  • The month of October was the sixth driest in 123 years for the southern peninsula of India, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Details:

  • Kerala, Mahe, Tamil Nadu, south interior Karnataka, Karaikal, Puducherry, coastal Andhra Pradesh, Yanam, and Rayalaseema are all included in this region.
  • It usually receives rainfall in October from both the advancing Northeast monsoon and the withdrawing Southwest monsoon.
  • This year, however, the area saw significantly less rainfall than usual and was dry for about 25 days.

Reasons for Poor Rainfall:

The October rainfall was inadequate due to several factors.

  • Cyclone Hamoon formed around the same time as the Northeast monsoon began, and it crossed the coast of Bangladesh, causing moisture to be dragged away from the southern peninsula.
  • This also changed the direction of wind flow, which led to a delayed start of the Northeast monsoon.

Rainfall Statistics:

October rainfall measurements were:

  • 5 mm (43% below normal),
  • 5 mm (53% below normal) in south interior Karnataka,
  • 311 mm (1% below normal) in Kerala,
  • 18 mm (90% below normal) in coastal Andhra Pradesh and Yanam, and
  • 7 mm (90% below normal) in Rayalaseema.

Weather Outlook:

  • The Northeast monsoon has picked up speed in the last few days despite its delayed start, and the IMD anticipates widespread good rainfall across Kerala and Tamil Nadu during the coming week.
  • A further round of rain is predicted for November 3–5.
  • Promising rainfall is also predicted for the region in November, with the Long Period Average (LPA) for the south peninsula of India in November being approximately 118.69 mm.
  • The area has been struggling with a drier-than-normal October, so this uptick in rainfall is much needed.

10. PM launches ‘MY Bharat’ platform for youth

Topic: Schemes

Context:

  • The Prime Minister of India launchedMY Bharat’ platform on October 31 on the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

About Mera Yuva Bharat

  • Mera Yuva Bharat (MY Bharat) aims to provide equitable access to opportunities and resources for young people between the ages of 15-29 (and, in some cases, 10-19) to help them actualize their aspirations and contribute to the development of the nation.
  • It focuses on making the youth active drivers of development rather than passive recipients. It recognizes the potential of young people to lead and create positive change in their communities and the country as a whole.
  • Technology is a central component of MY Bharat, allowing young people to access resources and connects with opportunities. It facilitates data collection, communication, and program management.Everything You Need To Know About 1 November 2023 : Daily Current Affair

Objectives

  • Leadership Development in the Youth: MY Bharat aims to improve the leadership skills of young people through experiential learning and programmatic skills. This means offering practical, hands-on experiences to develop leadership abilities.
  • Social Innovation: The program seeks to invest more in youth to turn them into social innovators and leaders in their communities, which can drive positive change and development.
  • Alignment with Youth Aspirations: It aims to align the government’s focus with the aspirations of the youth. By understanding and addressing what young people desire, it can lead to more effective development initiatives.
  • Efficiency through Convergence: MY Bharat will bring together and converge existing youth-related programs and services, making it more efficient for young people to access the resources and opportunities they need.
  • Centralized Youth Database: The program will create a centralized youth database, which can be valuable for research, policymaking, and targeted program delivery.
  • Enhanced Communication: It promotes improved two-way communication between the government, youth, and other stakeholders who engage with young people. This ensures that youth are aware of government initiatives and can provide feedback.
  • Phygital Ecosystem: The program emphasizes the creation of a “phygital” ecosystem, combining physical and digital elements to engage with young individuals. This approach allows for greater accessibility and inclusivity by utilizing both traditional and digital tools.

Significance

  • India’s youth is a critical demographic, and they are expected to play a pivotal role in the nation’s future. MY Bharat aims to empower them to become active contributors to nation-building.
  • The program recognizes the need for a framework that unites youth from various backgrounds, including rural, urban, and rurban areas, to work together towards common goals.
  • In a rapidly changing world driven by technology, MY Bharat acknowledges the importance of using technology to engage with the youth effectively and efficiently.
  • By creating a phygital ecosystem, MY Bharat intends to make government programs and initiatives accessible to young individuals, enhancing outreach and participation.

Way Forward:

  • Mera Yuva Bharat (MY Bharat) is a forward-looking initiative that aims to empower India’s youth by providing them with the resources, opportunities, and support they need to become leaders, innovators, and active participants in the development of the nation.
  • It recognizes the changing dynamics of the youth population, the role of technology, and the need for a unified approach to engage youth from diverse backgrounds.

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