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Daily Current Affairs

10 -January-2024

1. Supreme Court Resumes Hearings on Aligarh Muslim University's Minority Character Dispute After 57 Years

Topic: GS2 – Polity – Indian constitution – Significant provisions
This topic relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of interpretation of Article 30(1) of the Constitution, which empowers religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions
  • Recently, the Supreme Court of India started examining the long-standing disagreement regarding Aligarh Muslim University’s (AMU) minority status.
  • This long-running (more than 57 years) legal dispute centres on how to interpret Article 30(1) of the Constitution, which gives linguistic and religious minorities the freedom to create and run educational institutions without facing discrimination.
AMU’s Origins and Historical Context:
  • The Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MOA) College, established by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in 1875, is where AMU had its start.
  • First founded in 1920 to address Muslim educational inadequacy the institution was officially recognised as a university under the AMU Act.
  • The Governor General of India was designated as the head of the institution under the AMU Act, which also detailed its governance structure.
Emergence of the Dispute: 1967 Supreme Court Review:
  • The AMU Act amendments of 1951 and 1965 were reviewed by the Supreme Court in 1967, which led to the start of the legal dispute concerning AMU’s minority status.
  • These modifications reorganised the university’s hierarchy, substituting the President of India, or “Visitor,” for the position of “Lord Rector,” permitting non-Muslims to sit on the University Court, and giving the Executive Council more authority than the University Court.
  • In its 1967 decision, the Supreme Court emphasised the central government’s role in recognising that AMU was neither founded nor run by the Muslim minority.
Subsequent Developments and Protests:
  • The Muslim community countrywide protested the 1967 Supreme Court judgement.
  • Political authorities responded by specifically reiterating the AMU Act’s minority status in an amendment made in 1981. But the 1981 amendment was declared invalid by the Allahabad High Court in 2005, casting doubt on AMU’s reservation policy.
  • The High Court contended that AMU was ineligible to be classified as a minority institution on the basis of Supreme Court precedence.
  • The government’s subsequent appeals and withdrawals have made the situation even more complicated.
  • A lengthy legal battle with major ramifications has been uncovered by recent procedures, which were started by a seven-judge bench.
  • These proceedings highlight the intricate relationship between the rights of religious minorities and the state’s involvement in educational institutions.
What are the Constitutional Provisions for Minority?
Article 29:
  • It stipulates that each group of Indian citizens living in any region and possessing a unique language, script, or culture is entitled to keep it that way.
  • It provides security to minorities in language and religion alike.
  • The SC ruled, however, that minorities are not the sole group covered by this article since minorities and the majority are both included when the term “section of citizens” is used in the text.
Article 30:
  • The freedom to create and run any kind of educational institution is guaranteed to all minorities.
  • As opposed to Article 29’s protection of all citizens, Article 30’s protection is limited to minorities, whether they be linguistic or religious.
Article 350-B:
  • This provision, which calls for the appointment of a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities by the President of India, was added by the 7th Constitutional (Amendment) Act of 1956.
  • The Special Officer would be tasked with looking into any and all issues pertaining to the protections that the Constitution affords linguistic minorities.
PYQ: In India, if a religious sect/community is given the status of a national minority, what special advantages it is entitled to? (2011) 1.It can establish and administer exclusive educational institutions. 2.The President of India automatically nominates a representative of the community to Lok Sabha. 3.It can derive benefits from the Prime Minister’s 15-Point Programme. Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (a) 1 only (b) 2 and 3 only (c) 1 and 3 only (d) 1, 2 and 3 Ans: (c)
Practice Question: What are the key legal and constitutional dimensions surrounding the ongoing dispute over Aligarh Muslim University’s minority character, and how does the Supreme Court’s re-examination of this issue impact the delicate balance between religious minority rights and the state’s role in educational institutions? (250 words/15 m)

2. India Takes a Giant Leap in Radio Astronomy: Joins Square Kilometer Array Project, Paving the Way for Cutting-Edge Scientific Exploration and Technological Advancements

Topic: GS3 – Science and Tech. – Space technology
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of India’s active participation in global mega-science projects
  • India has formally chosen to join the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, a global scientific partnership with the goal of building the largest radio telescope in the world.
  • Although India has been a part of the project for a number of years, a recent move entails signing and ratifying an international treaty and providing Rs 1,250 crore for the building phase of the project.
The Square Kilometer Array: A Technological Marvel
  • The SKA gets its name from the original plan to create one square kilometre of effective area for collecting radio waves.
  • It is not a single huge telescope, but rather a collection of thousands of dish antennas operating as one unit.
  • The project, which is expected to cost $2.4 billion in 2021, would have more power than current radio telescopes because of its carefully planned antenna placement in Australia and South Africa’s sparsely inhabited areas, which will reduce interference from Earth-based signals.
Scientific Opportunities for India:
  • Even though India won’t host any SKA facilities, becoming a full member offers substantial scientific and technological benefits.
  • Joining SKA gives Indian scientists a great opportunity to expand on their country’s advanced radio astronomy capabilities.
  • With preferred access to SKA facilities due to full member status, India may both contribute to and profit from cutting-edge advances in computing, software, electronics, and materials research.
Benefits Beyond Borders: Access and Technology
  • Benefits from the decision extend beyond regional bounds. In accordance to its commitment to the project, India receives preferred time allocation on the radio telescope as a full member.
  • With intellectual assets available to all member countries, the SKA’s advanced technologies provide scholarly, scientific, and commercial sector learning possibilities.
  • Expanding the basis of science and technology through participation is anticipated to offer opportunities for capacity growth and training.
 Indian Involvement and Contributions:
  • India has been a part of the SKA initiative from its start in the 1990s. Leading India’s participation is the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) in Pune, with 22 institutions working together on SKA-related projects.
  • These organisations include private businesses, universities, colleges, research institutes, IITs, and IISERs.
  • India is credited with designing, developing, and administering the Telescope Manager, a critical piece of software that powers the entire facility.
Future Prospects and Research Aims:
  • SKA telescopes will be used to investigate a variety of study fields that Indian scientists, researchers, and students from over thirty universities have identified.
  • These include research on the development and evolution of galaxies, solar sciences, neutron star physics, and the history of the early cosmos.
  • The establishment of an SKA regional centre in India is planned as a component of the worldwide network for data processing, storage, and dissemination with the scientific community.
  • All things considered, India’s official participation in the SKA project represents a major advancement in the country’s standing in terms of cutting-edge science and technology.
Other Notable Telescopes and Their Contributions:
  • Hubble Space Telescope: Studied galaxies, black holes, dark energy, and made profound discoveries in cosmology and exoplanets.
  • James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): Set to explore the formation of galaxies, stars, and planetary systems, observing in the infrared spectrum.
  • Chandra X-ray Observatory: Explored high-energy phenomena such as black holes, neutron stars, and supernova remnants through X-ray observations.
  • Spitzer Space Telescope: Investigated infrared emissions from distant galaxies, dust lanes, and exoplanets, contributing to our understanding of the cosmos.
  • Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope: Explored gamma-ray bursts, dark matter, and high-energy cosmic sources through gamma-ray observations.
  • ARIES Telescope: Designed to investigate star structures, magnetic fields, planets, and stars, contributing to astronomical discoveries.
  • ASTROSAT: India’s multi-wavelength space telescope studying high-energy processes in binary star systems, neutron stars, and galaxies.
  • Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT): An upcoming large optical telescope aiming to provide sharper images for advanced astrophysical research.
  • Liquid-Mirror Telescope (LMT): India’s operational telescope for observing asteroids, supernovae, and astronomical objects.
PYQ: Launched on 25th December, 2021, James Webb Space Telescope has been much in the news since then. What are its unique features which make it superior to its predecessor Space Telescopes? What are the key goals of this mission? What potential benefits does it hold for the human race? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022)
Practice Question: How does India’s formal entry into the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project signify a significant stride in advancing its position in cutting-edge scientific research and technology, and what implications does this decision hold for India’s role in international scientific collaborations? (250 words/15 m)

3. 2023 Breaks Climate Records: Warmest Year Since 1850, Raising Urgency for Global Climate Action in the Face of Unprecedented Warming

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of multi-dimensional perspective on climate change.
  • 2023 surpassed the previous record set in 2016 to become the warmest year since records began in 1850, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).
  • According to this announcement, 2023’s temperatures will probably be higher than any year during the previous 100,000 years.
  • The year was 0.17 degrees Celsius warmer than 2016 and 1.48 degrees Celsius warmer than the average pre-industrial level between 1850 and 1900.
Unprecedented Climate Records and Extreme Weather Events:
  • A number of climate records were broken in 2023, with annual temperatures rising by more than 1 degree Celsius beyond pre-industrial levels on every day of the year.
  • About half of the days had temperatures that were higher than those of 1850–1900 by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius; two of those days occurred in November, which is particularly noteworthy.
  • Heatwaves, floods, droughts, and wildfires are just a few of the extreme weather occurrences that have been brought on by global warming.
Contributing Factors: Greenhouse Gas Concentrations and El Niño:
  • Rising atmospheric quantities of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide from human activities like burning fossil fuels, are the main cause of this serious warming.
  • With methane concentrations rising by 11 parts per billion and carbon dioxide concentrations rising by 2.4 parts per million from 2022 to 2023, greenhouse gas concentrations in 2023 hit their highest levels ever observed.
  • Moreover, the arrival of El Niño after a span of seven years contributed to the probability of breaking temperature records.
Projections for 2024 and Beyond:
  • Experts predict that 2024 might break the 2023 temperature records.
  • The fact that El Niño was not the main cause of the unusual heat in 2023 suggests that this climatic phenomenon was not the only one.
  • It is therefore considered highly likely that 2024 will be hotter than 2023.
  • More severe climate change impacts could result from at least one year between 2023 and 2027 that surpasses the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming threshold for the full year, a possibility that has a 66% chance of occurring.
Urgent Actions Needed to Mitigate Climate Change:
  • If the 1.5-degree threshold is consistently broken, the effects of climate change could become more severe, requiring immediate global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The required steps to lessen climate change and its potentially disastrous effects have not been taken, despite the dire statistics.
What is Global Warming?
  • An increase in the average global temperature over time is known as global warming. Although warming is thought to be a natural phenomena, human activity on Earth, especially after the Industrial Revolution, has increased the rate at which temperatures are rising.
  • The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has repeatedly noted in its reports that, since 1850, human activity has increased the average global temperature by roughly 1 degree Celsius.
  • The latter part of the 20th century saw the majority of this warming. The fact that five of the hottest years on record have happened since 2015 may provide more insight into the disastrous effects of human activity.
PYQ: Discuss global warming and mention its effects on the global climate. Explain the control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gases which cause global warming, in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022)
Practice Question: Analyze the potential consequences of a long-term breach of the 1.5-degree Celsius warming threshold, and suggest policy measures that nations should prioritize to address the challenges posed by climate change. (200 words/12.5 m)

4. Majority of Indian cities far from clean air target, says study.

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation
Critical for UPSC as it addresses environmental policies, urban development challenges, and the efficacy of pollution reduction programs in India.
  • The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) aims to reduce pollution by 40% by 2026 in 131 cities, but analysis shows slow progress, with only 27 out of 49 cities demonstrating PM 2.5 decline.
  • Monitoring station scarcity poses challenges.
What is in the news?
  • The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) aims to reduce average particulate matter concentrations by 40% by 2026 in 131 cities.
  • An analysis by Respirer Living Sciences and Climate Trends reveals that among 49 cities with consistent data, only 27 showed a decline in PM 2.5 over five years.
  • Only four cities met or exceeded the targeted decline, indicating a slow progress in achieving air quality goals.
  • Delhi experienced a modest 5.9% decline in average annual PM 2.5 levels, while Navi Mumbai saw a 46% rise.
  • Varanasi showed a significant reduction with a 72% average decline in PM 2.5 levels and a 69% reduction in PM 10 levels.
  • The number and spread of continuous ambient air quality monitors significantly influence pollutant concentrations in cities.
  • Most Indian cities have fewer than five monitoring stations; only four out of 92 cities in the analysis have more than 10 stations.
  • The effectiveness of the NCAP in improving air quality remains uncertain, with challenges persisting despite some positive strides
The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)
  • The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) is an initiative launched by the the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • Aim: To reduce particulate matter (PM) levels by 20-30% in 131 cities by 2026.
  • Focus areas include industrial emissions, vehicular pollution, and dust management.
  • Implementation involves collaboration with state governments, local bodies, and other stakeholders.
  • The program promotes the use of technology for real-time air quality monitoring.
  • Emphasis on public awareness and citizen participation in combating air pollution.
  • NCAP is a comprehensive and integrated approach to improve air quality across the country.
PYQ: What are the key features of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) initiated by the Government of India? (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2020) (250 words/15 m)
Practice Question: Despite various policy initiatives, India continues to struggle with severe air pollution levels. Analyze the key challenges hindering effective air quality management and suggest two concrete policy measures. (250 words/15 m)

5. Planned disruptions are against democracy: Birla.

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – Parliament
Crucial for UPSC as it addresses parliamentary disruptions, legislative efficiency, and the preservation of democratic principles in India.
  • Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla criticizes disruptions in parliamentary proceedings, emphasizing the need for constructive discussions and tough measures to maintain the House’s dignity.
  • The Winter Session saw suspensions, and the two-day program aims to improve House functioning.
Disruptions in Indian Parliament: A Critical Analysis: Data:
  • Frequency:Over the past decades, disruptions have become increasingly common. The 17th Lok Sabha (2019-24) has witnessed disruptions in 56% of its sittings, compared to 39% in the 16th Lok Sabha.
  • Time Lost:In the 17th Lok Sabha, 38% of scheduled time has been lost to disruptions, impacting legislative productivity and critical debates.
  • Reasons:Protests against government policies, opposition demands for inquiries, and personal attacks between members are frequent triggers.
  • Erosion of Parliamentary Decorum:Disruptions undermine the dignity and functioning of the legislature, hindering constructive dialogue and debate.
  • Reduced Legislative Output:Limited time for законопроекты and discussions restricts thorough scrutiny and can lead to poorly drafted or rushed legislation.
  • Public Distrust:Frequent disruptions can disillusion citizens and erode faith in democratic processes.
  • Weakening Accountability:Protests may prevent the effective questioning of the government and holding it accountable for its actions.
  • Stalled Legislation:Important bills get delayed or passed without proper debate, impacting policy implementation and progress.
  • Polarization and Impasse:Disruptions can deepen political divides and make it difficult to reach consensus on crucial issues.
  • Media Circus:Sensationalized coverage of disruptions overshadows substantive discussions and policy matters.
  • Disengaged Public:Citizens may lose interest in parliamentary proceedings due to their chaotic nature.
Way Forward:
  • Internal Mechanisms:Implement stricter rules against disruptions, like penalties for misconduct and time limits for protests.
  • Dialogue and Consensus: Encourage constructive dialogue between parties and foster a culture of compromise and mutual respect.
  • Strengthen Committees: Empower parliamentary committees to scrutinize законопроекты and hold the government accountable more effectively.
  • Public Engagement:Increase transparency and public outreach to make citizens aware of Parliament’s importance and functioning.
  • Technological Tools:Utilize technology to enable remote participation and ensure efficient time management during sessions.
Practice Question: Disruptions remain endemic in the Indian Parliament. Analyze the key factors hindering effective parliamentary functioning and suggest two concrete measures to restore decorum and productivity. (250 words/15 m)

6. A look at Project Tiger, 50 years on.

Topic: GS3 – Environment and Ecology – Conservation – Important species
Critical for UPSC as it involves environmental policies, conservation challenges, and the legal framework for balancing wildlife protection and human rights.
  • The article discusses the evolution of India’s Project Tiger, its success in creating tiger reserves, and the subsequent challenges.
  • It delves into the conflicts arising from the displacement of forest-dwelling communities and the legal and environmental implications of tiger conservation efforts.
Project Tiger Evolution:
  • Project Tiger, initiated in 1973, introduced tiger reserves in India, evolving from administrative to statutory category in 2006.
  • Tiger reserves hailed as a conservation success story globally.
Origins and Expansion:
  • Originated with the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA) in 1972, creating National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • Nine tiger reserves in 1973 expanded to 54 in 18 States covering 78,135.956 sq. km.
  • Critical Tiger Habitats (CTH) cover 42,913.37 sq. km, representing 26% of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
Changing Approach – Tiger Task Force:
  • In 2005, Tiger Task Force appointed to address vanishing tigers despite substantial investments.
  • Found traditional methods ineffective and highlighted the need to protect forests and consider local communities.
Legal Amendments:
  • In 2006, WLPA amended, creating National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and a tiger conservation plan.
  • Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA) recognized forest rights.
Conflict Resolution and Consequences:
  • NTCA directive to delineate CTHs without complying with WLPA provisions led to the notification of 26 tiger reserves in 2007.
  • Lack of Buffer Area in CTHs resulted in conflicts between tigers and displaced forest-dwellers.
Forest Rights Recognition:
  • FRA recognizes customary and traditional forest rights in tiger reserves, securing livelihoods for millions.
  • Introduced Critical Wildlife Habitat (CWH) concept to protect specific areas from non-forest purposes.
Controversies and Resistance:
  • Tiger reserves witness resistance to forest rights recognition, especially in CTHs.
  • NTCA initially refused to recognize FRA rights in CTHs, later withdrawing the ban order in 2018.
Ongoing Challenges:
  • Lack of full compliance with FRA Act provisions; government limits compensation based on guidelines.
  • Increasing tiger population and reserves lead to potential conflicts with forest-dwelling communities.
Environmental Ministry’s Role:
  • Environment Ministry’s guidelines and clearances create confusion, impacting the implementation of FRA.
  • Tiger terrain in India becomes a potential conflict hotspot with the expansion of reserves and corridors.
  • Despite Project Tiger’s success, unresolved issues in recognizing forest rights create conflicts and challenges in tiger conservation.

7. ‘World came close to the critical 1.5 degree Celsius limit in 2023’.

Topic: GS3 – Environment and Ecology – Environmental pollution and degradation
Critical for UPSC as it involves climate change impact assessment, global warming trends, and adherence to Paris Agreement goals 
  • The Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that 2023 was the hottest year on record, approaching the critical 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold, intensifying climate impacts globally. 
Additional information on this news:
  • 2023 recorded as the hottest year on record, nearing the critical 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold.
  • Global surface temperature rose by 1.48 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial benchmark.
  • Climate change intensified heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires worldwide.
  • All days in 2023 surpassed one degree warmer than the pre-industrial period.
  • Over 1.5 degrees Celsius for nearly half the year, risking self-reinforcing and catastrophic climate impacts.
  • Exceeding 1.5 degrees in 2024 doesn’t imply failure in meeting Paris Agreement; multiple consecutive years needed for assessment.
The Paris Agreement
  • The Paris Agreement is a global treaty adopted in 2015 at the 21st UN Climate Change Conference (COP21).
  • Goal: Limit global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, aiming for a 1.5-degree limit.
  • Binding commitment: Nations submit nationally determined contributions (NDCs) outlining their climate action plans.
  • Regular stocktaking and updating of NDCs to enhance ambition over time.
  • Financial support pledged to developing countries for climate adaptation and mitigation.
  • Emphasis on transparency, accountability, and a global stocktake every five years.
  • Entered into force in 2016, symbolizing a collective effort to combat climate change.
PYQ: Discuss global warming and mention its effects on the global climate. Explain the control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gases which cause global warming, in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022) (250 words/15 m)

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