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Daily Current Affairs

12-February-2024- Top News of the Day

1. Great Indian Bustards give Nandyal a miss this year too

Topic: GS3 – Environment and Ecology – Conservation – Important Species
The Great Indian Bustard’s absence in Andhra Pradesh highlights conservation challenges, relevant for UPSC aspirants studying biodiversity, wildlife conservation, and environmental policies.
Context
  • The absence of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard in Andhra Pradesh’s Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary raises concerns despite successful conservation efforts in Rajasthan.
  • This emphasises the need for broader strategies to ensure the species’ survival and distribution.
 Additional information on this news: Introduction:
  • The Great Indian Bustard (GIB) has not been observed in the Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary in Nandyal district of Andhra Pradesh and its surrounding areas for the past two years.
  • Regular surveys have been conducted by forest officials, but independent organizations also reported no sightings.
Population Status:
  • GIB is designated as “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list.
  • Less than 140 GIBs are estimated worldwide, with the majority (120) found in the arid grasslands of the Thar desert, particularly in the Desert National Park and the Pokhran Field Firing Range in Rajasthan.
  • Populations in other States range from one to six individuals.
Conservation Efforts in Rajasthan:
  • An agreement was signed in 2018 between the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), the Rajasthan Forest Department, and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to establish a breeding centre for GIB in Pokhran, Rajasthan.
  • The International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), Abu Dhabi, was involved as a technical partner with expertise in breeding other bustard species.
Conservation Breeding Program:
  • GIBs are slow-reproducing, laying few eggs and providing almost a year-long parental care to chicks.
  • Conservation breeding program initiated in 2019 involved collecting eggs from the wild and artificially hatching them in the Sam Forest Chowki of the Desert National Park.
  • First chick named Uno hatched on June 21, 2019, followed by eight more chicks that year.
  • Techniques for artificial hatching and chick rearing developed based on learnings and protocols from other bustard conservation breeding programs.
  • Currently, 29 GIBs are housed in the breeding centre.
Major Milestone in Conservation:
  • A significant achievement occurred in 2023 when captive-reared birds bred naturally for the first time.
  • The success reflects the progress of the conservation breeding program and the development of techniques for sustaining GIB populations.
Conclusion:
  • Despite efforts in Rajasthan, the absence of GIB in Andhra Pradesh raises concerns about the species’ overall distribution and migratory patterns.
  • Conservation efforts remain crucial to prevent further decline and ensure the survival of this critically endangered species.
PYQ: With reference to India’s Desert National Park, which of the following statements are correct? (2020) 1. It is spread over two districts. 2. There is no human habitation inside the Park. 3. It is one of the natural habitats of Great Indian Bustard. Select the correct answer using the code given below: (a) 1 and 2 only (b) 2 and 3 only (c) 1 and 3 only (d) 1, 2 and 3 Ans: (c)

2. Average annual sitting days in LS down to 55

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – Parliament
Critical for UPSC aspirants studying governance, parliamentary procedures, and legislative efficiency, providing insights into the Working of parliament.
Context
  • The news discusses the functioning of the 17th Lok Sabha, highlighting reduced sitting days, early adjournments, rapid bill passage, Deputy Speaker absence, and the limited impact of Private Members’ Bills.
 Additional information on this news:  Parliament Sitting Days:
  • Average annual sitting days of the 17th Lok Sabha was 55 days, compared to 135 days for the first Lok Sabha led by Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • Statistical study by PRS Legislative Research covered the period from June 2019 to February 2024.
  • 17th Lok Sabha held 274 sittings during this period.
Pandemic Impact:
  • The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the drop in sitting days, but it does not fully explain the early adjournments and cancellations.
  • 11 out of 15 sessions were adjourned early, resulting in the cancellation of 40 scheduled sittings.
  • Lowest number of sitting days (33 in total) occurred in 2020.
Deputy Speaker Absence:
  • 17th Lok Sabha functioned without a Deputy Speaker, a constitutionally mandated position.
  • Article 93 of the Constitution requires the election of a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker as soon as possible.
Rapid Passage of Bills:
  • 58% of Bills were passed within two weeks of their introduction.
  • J&K Reorganisation Bill, 2019, and Women’s Reservation Bill, 2023 passed within two days of introduction.
  • 35% of Bills passed with less than an hour of discussion in Lok Sabha, corresponding to 34% in Rajya Sabha.
Standing Committee Referrals:
  • Only 16% of Bills were referred to Standing Committees for Parliamentary scrutiny.
  • This is lower than the figures for the previous three Lok Sabhas.
Private Members’ Bills (PMB) Impact:
  • 729 PMBs introduced in the 17th Lok Sabha, higher than all previous Lok Sabhas except the 16th.
  • However, only two PMBs were discussed.
  • In Rajya Sabha, 705 PMBs were introduced, with 14 discussed.
  • Only 14 PMBs have been passed and received assent, with none passed in both Houses since 1970.
Conclusion:
  • The 17th Lok Sabha saw a significant reduction in sitting days, early adjournments, and cancellations, partially attributed to the pandemic.
  • Absence of a Deputy Speaker and rapid passage of Bills without sufficient debate have been points of criticism.
Reduced Efficiency Of Parliament
Reasons:
  • Disruptions and adjournments: Frequent disruptions due to protests, walkouts, and other political tactics.
  • Lack of consensus: Decreased focus on building bridges and finding common ground across parties.
  • Legislative agenda congestion: Overcrowded agenda leading to rushed, inadequate debate and scrutiny.
  • Shifting priorities: Focus on campaigning and public appearances versus legislative responsibilities.
Implications:
  • Legislative backlog: Delays in passing crucial bills, impacting policy implementation and development.
  • Accountability concerns: Reduced oversight over government actions and limited public engagement.
  • Eroding public trust: Perception of inefficiency and inability to address important issues.
  • Impact on democracy: Diminishes space for meaningful debate and compromises representative character.
Way Forward:
  • Strengthen internal mechanisms: Encourage constructive dialogue, foster consensus, and discourage disruptions.
  • Prioritize legislative agenda: Streamline processes, focus on key bills, and ensure proper debate and scrutiny.
  • Increase accountability: Regular assessments of performance, transparency in proceedings, and stronger mechanisms for public engagement.
  • Electoral reforms: Encourage candidates and parties to prioritize legislative duties and discourage disruptive tactics.
  • Civic engagement: Increased awareness among citizens about the importance of a functioning parliament and their own role in holding it accountable.
By addressing these issues and implementing meaningful reforms, India can ensure a more productive and accountable parliament, strengthening its democratic processes and fulfilling its obligations to the citizens.
PYQ: Individual Parliamentarian’s role as the national lawmaker is on a decline, which in turn, has adversely impacted the quality of debates and their outcome. Discuss. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2019)
Practice Question:  In the context of declining Parliamentary productivity due to reduced sitting days, critically analyze the reasons and implications, suggesting measures to ensure a more accountable and efficient legislature in India. (250 words/15 m)

3. The patterns of global warming are more important than its levels

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environmental Pollution and Degradation Critical for UPSC aspirants studying climate change and environmental policies, offering insights into warming patterns beyond arbitrary thresholds.
Context
  • The news discusses a recent study challenging the concept of a 1.5 degrees Celsius warming threshold, asserting Earth’s surface has already surpassed this mark.
  • Emphasizing the importance of understanding global warming patterns for effective climate change management.
 Introduction:
  • 2023 saw the breaking of many warming records along with climate disasters such as wildfires, cyclones, droughts, and floods.
  • The public narrative often focused on whether the “magical” warming threshold of 1.5 degrees C was crossed.
  • A recent study challenges the notion and claims Earth’s surface has already warmed by more than 1.5 degrees C over pre-industrial levels.
1.5 Degrees C Threshold Controversy:
  • 5 degrees C is not a scientific threshold but became a focal point in the Paris Agreement.
  • The new study uses palaeo-thermometry, collecting warming data from one location and extrapolating it globally.
  • Palaeo proxies use chemical evidence stored in various organic matter to approximate past temperatures.
Palaeo Proxies and Temperature Deviations:
  • Palaeo proxies provide indirect evidence of temperature deviations using chemical evidence stored in organic matter.
  • Calibration of chemical compounds assimilated by species helps establish relationships with prevailing local temperatures.
  • Results provide local temperature anomaly estimates from the past but cannot claim deviations from instrumental records.
Significance of Crossing 1.5 Degrees C:
  • Claims of crossing the threshold lack clear explanations for exceptional warming or its implications.
  • Warming patterns are crucial for managing disasters associated with global warming.
  • The study highlights the need for understanding spatial variations and evolving patterns of global warming.
Importance of Warming Patterns:
  • Global warming patterns have not been fully explained, impacting the ability to manage associated disasters.
  • Lessons from El Niños and their impacts on global warming and the monsoon emphasize the importance of focusing on warming patterns.
  • El Niño-driven warming impacts vary based on location and modify the overall warming pattern.
El Niño as a Warming Paradigm:
  • El Niño years cause a mini global warming with teleconnections, influencing distant locations.
  • Warming patterns during El Niño can vary based on the location in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
  • El Niño teleconnections modify the warming pattern and affect temperature feedback in different regions.
Need for Accurate Predictions:
  • Accurate predictions of warming patterns are essential to manage climate change
  • Adaptation to changing seasons and the harm to lives, livelihoods, and economies require understanding local warmings and coolings.
  • Global warming patterns should be considered when arbitrary thresholds lack a real scientific basis.
Conclusion:
  • The study underscores the importance of understanding warming patterns over arbitrary thresholds.
  • Emphasis on global warming patterns aids in better predictions, adaptation, and management of climate change impacts.
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. (250 words/15 m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022)
Practice Question:  How does the recent study challenging the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming threshold contribute to our understanding of global warming patterns? Discuss (250 words/15 m)

4. Brumation: winter is coming for reptiles

Topic: GS3 – Environment and Ecology
Relevant for UPSC aspirants studying biodiversity and ecology, showcasing adaptations like brumation crucial for reptile survival in challenging environments.
Context
  • The article explains brumation, a reptilian form of dormancy or slowed activity during colder months, helping conserve energy and ensure survival in adverse environmental conditions.
Additional information on this news:
  • Brumation is a period of dormancy or slowed activity in reptiles, akin to hibernation in mammals.
  • It occurs during colder months when temperatures drop, and food becomes scarce.
  • Reptiles enter brumation to conserve energy and survive adverse environmental conditions.
  • They may retreat to underground burrows, rock crevices, or other sheltered areas with stable temperatures.
  • Metabolism significantly slows, allowing reptiles to go weeks or months without eating.
  • This reduced activity helps conserve energy and minimize resource requirements.
  • Various reptilian species, such as box turtles, painted turtles, snakes, and lizards, exhibit brumation behavior.
  • Box and painted turtles burrow into mud at the bottom of ponds, while snakes seek refuge in underground dens.
  • Lizards may hide under rocks or within vegetation during brumation.
  • Brumation is crucial for reptiles to endure cold climates and challenging environmental conditions, ensuring survival until more favorable conditions for feeding and reproduction emerge.

5. Study Reveals Positive Impact of PM SVANidhi Scheme on Street Vendors' Income and Business Investments

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Vulnerable sections: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing the positive impact of the PM SVANidhi scheme on street vendors’ income.
Context:
  • A recent study assessing the effectiveness of the PM Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) scheme, designed to provide working capital loans to street vendors, revealed significant positive outcomes.
  • Conducted by the Centre for Analytical Finance of the Indian School of Business (ISB) between January and June last year, the study found that the initial tranche of ₹10,000 led to an additional annual income of ₹23,460 per beneficiary.
  • However, despite the study’s findings, the report is not likely to be made public and will be utilized internally by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for its own assessment of the scheme.
More about the news: Background and Implementation:
  • PM SVANidhi was launched in 2020 to assist street vendors in resuming their livelihoods amidst the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown by offering affordable working capital loans.
  • Under the scheme, beneficiaries can initially avail ₹10,000, with the possibility of accessing subsequent loans of ₹20,000 and ₹50,000 upon repayment.
Scheme Disbursement and Beneficiary Profile:
  • Data from the PM-SVANidhi portal indicates substantial disbursement of loans, with 60.65 lakh first-term loans, 16.95 lakh second-term loans, and 2.43 lakh third-term loans disbursed thus far.
  • The ISB study, covering 5,141 vendors across 100 urban local bodies in 22 states, highlighted that the majority of beneficiaries considered the PM-SVANidhi loan as their first-ever bank loan and a significant proportion viewed it as their first business loan.
Utilization and Impact of Loans:
  • According to the study, a high percentage of beneficiaries utilized the loans for business investments, with 94% of those availing the first loan and 98% of those accessing the second loan reporting such usage.
  • The first loan resulted in a substantial increase in monthly income, aligning with marginal return estimates of small businesses globally.
Loan Performance and Debt-to-Income Ratio:
  • The study noted a relatively low incidence of non-performing assets (NPAs) among the loans disbursed, with NPAs highest during the Covid-19 pandemic but declining over time.
  • Additionally, the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio of beneficiaries was lower than expected, indicating the vendors’ high creditworthiness.
Challenges and Future Prospects:
  • Despite the scheme’s positive impact, the study highlighted challenges in accessing formal credit from sources other than PM SVANidhi, with only 9% of beneficiaries having loans from other financial institutions.
  • This indicates the need for further efforts to enhance financial inclusion and support street vendors beyond the scope of the scheme.
Who is a Street Vendor/hawker?
  • Any individual involved in the business of selling everyday commodities, merchandise, food items, and other articles to the public, whether from a mobile unit or a temporary built-up structure, or by moving from place to place.
  • They provide a variety of items and services, such as barbershops, cobblers, pan shops, laundry services, and ready-to-eat street food, tea, pakodas, breads, eggs, textiles, clothes, and artisan products.
  • It is estimated that there are 49.48 lakh street sellers in India.
  • With 8.49 lakh, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number, followed by Madhya Pradesh with 7.04 lakh.
  • There are just 72,457 street sellers in Delhi.
  • In Sikkim, no known street vendor has been found.
Practice Question:  Critically analyze the impact of the PM SVANidhi scheme on the socio-economic status of street vendors in India. (150 words/10 m)

6. What is Nazool land

Topic: Important topics for Prelims
Context:
  • In the recent incident in Haldwani, Uttarakhand, violence erupted during a demolition drive conducted by the administration at the site of a mosque and madrasa allegedly located on Nazool land.
  • According to the district administration, the property where the structures were situated is registered as Nazool land belonging to the Municipal Council.
  • Despite a notice issued for the removal of encroachments, local representatives requested time to appeal to the High Court, expressing willingness to abide by the court’s decision.
  • However, the demolition proceeded, leading to tensions and conflicting accounts between the administration and local representatives.
More about the news: Understanding Nazool Land:
  • Nazool land, owned by the government but not directly administered as state property, is often leased to various entities for fixed periods, typically ranging from 15 to 99 years.
  • This land is subject to renewal or cancellation by the government upon the expiration of the lease term, regulated by the Revenue Department of the local development authority.
Historical Origins of Nazool Land:
  • Emerging during British rule, Nazool land came into existence as a result of the British seizing lands from kings and kingdoms that opposed them.
  • Following India’s independence, these lands were relinquished by the British and designated as Nazool land, owned by the respective state governments due to the lack of proper documentation by the former kings.
Utilization of Nazool Land:
  • Nazool land is primarily utilized for public purposes such as constructing schools, hospitals, and government buildings.
  • Additionally, large tracts of Nazool land in various cities are allocated for housing societies, typically on lease, to address the growing housing needs.
Regulation of Nazool Land:
  • While different states have issued government orders and regulations for the governance of Nazool land, The Nazool Lands (Transfer) Rules, 1956, serve as the primary legal framework for adjudicating matters related to Nazool land.
Conclusion:
  • The incident in Haldwani underscores the complex dynamics surrounding the utilization and administration of Nazool land, highlighting the need for effective communication and conflict resolution mechanisms between authorities and local communities to prevent such conflicts in the future.

7. Government to Regulate Online Gaming Sector, Rejects Industry-Led Regulatory Body

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the decision by the government to regulate the online gaming sector which reflects a significant policy shift, indicating the role of regulatory bodies in governing digital industries.
Context:
  • The government has decided to take charge as a regulator for the online gaming sector instead of establishing an industry-led self-regulatory organization (SRO).
  • According to officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), a framework will be devised by MeitY for permitting and certifying online games involving monetary transactions.
  • The decision to forego the SRO route came after proposals received for SROs were perceived as heavily biased towards gaming companies and industry associations, lacking neutrality.
More about the news: Regulatory Framework and Approval Process:
  • Under the Information Technology (IT) rules, online real money games require approval from a regulatory body, while games that do not involve real money do not need regulatory clearance.
  • The online gaming rules were notified on April 6, 2023, with a three-month window given to the industry to propose SROs.
  • However, the received proposals were deemed too industry-dominated, prompting the government to reject them.
Government’s Regulatory Role:
  • Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, emphasized the government’s stance on ensuring the neutrality of regulatory bodies in the online gaming sector.
  • He indicated that in the absence of an SRO, the government will continue to regulate the space.
  • However, further details about the upcoming regulatory framework were not disclosed.
Proposed Composition of SROs:
  • Initially, it was anticipated that SROs would comprise individuals with expertise in online gaming, along with educationists, psychologists, child rights advocates, and ICT experts.
  • However, none of the proposals from industry bodies like AIGF, EPWA, AIGR Foundation, and a consortium of EGF and FIFS met the government’s requirements.
Future Outlook and Industry Expectations:
  • The government has established a group of ministers to deliberate on the regulatory framework for the online gaming industry.
  • However, a definitive regulatory structure may only emerge post-general elections.
  • Industry players, including Dream Sports and Games 24×7, have sought clarity on various aspects such as responsible gaming, player protection, financial frauds, and gaming certification, advocating for a regulatory framework akin to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) for the sector.
What is the Need for the Rules?
  • Since women make up between 40 and 45 percent of Indian players, it was even more crucial to maintain the security of the gaming ecosystem.
  • It would lessen the state-by-state regulatory fragmentation that was a major obstacle for the online gambling industry and is thought to be an excellent first step towards comprehensive regulation.
  • By 2025, the Indian mobile gaming market is predicted to generate $5 billion in revenue.
  • In contrast to 8% in China and 10% in the US, the industry expanded at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38% in India between 2017 and 2020.
  • A study by management consulting firm BCG and venture capital firm Sequoia projects that it will generate Rs 153 billion in sales by 2024, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 15%.
Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of the government’s decision to regulate the online gaming sector. Analyze the reasons behind the government’s shift in approach and evaluate its potential impact. (250 words/15 m)

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