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Daily Current Affairs

12 -January-2024

1. Mumbai Trans Harbour Link Inaugurated: A Gateway to Connectivity and Economic Growth

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy- Infrastructure 
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of economic implications, connectivity benefits, and challenges related to toll costs and accessibility.
Context:
  • Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) is a recently built 22-kilometer twin-carriageway, six-lane bridge that crosses the Arabian Sea’s Thane Creek.
  • It connects Sewri on the island city of Mumbai to Chirle in Raigad district on the mainland.
  • The MTHL has a combined length of 5.5 km, consisting of a 16.5 km sea link and viaducts on land at either end.
  • By improving connectivity, the initiative hopes to shorten travel times and promote economic development in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
Historical Background (1963-2024):
  • The idea of a bay crossing that would connect Mumbai to the mainland was first put up by Wilbur Smith Associates in 1963.
  • But until the concept was resurrected in the late 1990s, it saw no advancement.
  • Reliance Infrastructure, led by Anil Ambani, won the 2008 bid but subsequently withdrew.
  • Multiple bidding processes transpired, and the nodal agency shifted from MSRDC to MMRDA.
  • Ultimately, an arrangement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) obtained 80% of the funds, with the central and state governments sharing the remaining portion.
  • Early in 2018, work got underway, costing a total of Rs 21,200 crore, including a loan of Rs 15,100 crore from JICA.
Benefits of MTHL:
  • The MTHL is anticipated to cut the travel time from 61 minutes to less than 16 minutes between Sewri and Chirle, according to MMRDA and JICA.
  • The project will help Navi Mumbai, Panvel, Alibaug, Pune, and Goa by facilitating economic integration.
  • It is projected that there will be better communication between South Mumbai and important sites like as the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Mumbai Pune Motorway, Navi Mumbai International Airport, and Mumbai-Goa Highway.
Concerns and Unresolved Issues: Despite the MTHL’s significant beneficial promised, many issues still exist:
  • The one-way crossing’s Rs 250 toll is regarded as excessive and can affect frequent travellers.
  • The landing sites on the mainland, Shivaji Nagar in Ulwe and Chirle, are more than 10 km from the centre of towns, which raises the expense of transportation.
  • The absence of designated bus lanes and other public transportation amenities creates concerns over everyday commuter accessibility between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.
Conclusion:
  • A major infrastructure project, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link seeks to improve connectivity and spur economic growth.
  • Unresolved issues with toll prices and accessibility for regular commuters, however, highlight the necessity of ongoing assessment and possible project enhancements.
PYQ: Investment in infrastructure is essential for a more rapid and inclusive economic growth. Discuss in the light of India’s experience. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2021)
Practice Question: Critically analyze the socio-economic impact of the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) on the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Discuss the anticipated benefits in terms of connectivity and economic development. (200 words/12.5 m)

2. Government Launches Ambitious HPV Vaccination Drive to Combat Cervical Cancer: A Three-Year Initiative Targeting Girls Aged 9-14

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice- Health 
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of targeting cervical cancer.
Context:
  • The second most common cancer among Indian women, cervical cancer, is about to face a major push from the Indian government.
  • The programme consists of a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination drive aimed at females between the ages of nine and fourteen.
  • The immunisation campaign, which will take place over the course of three years in three parts, is anticipated to start in the second quarter of this year, provided that 6.5-7 crore vaccine doses for the first phase are available.
Wide-ranging Protection and Cost Considerations:
  • In addition to protecting against cervical cancer, the HPV vaccine provides defence against HPV strains linked to genital warts, anal, vaginal, and oropharyngeal malignancies.
  • The vaccine, which retails for Rs 2,000 per dosage, would be made publicly available as soon as it is included in the government’s immunisation programme.
  • In three years, the initiative intends to immunise one-third of girls between the ages of 9 and 14, encompassing roughly 8 crore eligible children across the country.
Implementation and Eligibility:
  • Schools and already-existing vaccination sites will be used for the vaccine campaign.
  • The necessity of this programme is apparent, as India records 1.25 lakh cases and 75,000 deaths annually, accounting for about one-fifth of all cervical cancer cases worldwide.
  • States will be given priority for the campaign’s initial rollout, which will target about 2.6 crore eligible youngsters in the first year and add another 50 lakh to 1 crore who would need vaccinations in the following years.
Manufacturing and Research Developments
  • Although the quadrivalent vaccination Cervavac from the Serum Institute of India is now available for purchase, the company is increasing production to suit government demand.
  • Cervavac protects against HPV types 16, 18, 6, and 11.
  • In the meanwhile, despite international guidelines that support multiple dosage schedules, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) suggests conducting ICMR trials to evaluate the effectiveness of a single-dose HPV vaccine for children aged 9 to 15.
  • In order to highlight the significance of public health initiatives, ICMR suggests researching antibody persistence following a single dosage.
Conclusion:
  • The government’s HPV vaccination programme, which prioritises comprehensive protection and cost, shows promise in dramatically lowering the number of young girls who develop cervical cancer.
PYQ: What is the basic principle behind vaccine development? How do vaccines work? What approaches were adopted by the Indian vaccine manufacturers to produce COVID-19 vaccines? (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022) (250 words/15 m)
Practice Question: Examine and assess the potential impact of the Government of India’s three-year Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination campaign for girls aged 9-14 in the context of combating cervical cancer. (200 words/12.5 m)

3. Assam Launches Mukhyamantri Mahila Udyamita Abhiyaan: Financial Support for Rural Women Entrepreneurs Tied to Population Norms

Topic: GS2 – Governance- Important aspects of governance 
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of government schemes, population policies, and socio-economic initiatives. 
Context:
  • Mukhyamantri Mahila Udyamita Abhiyaan (MMUA), a new financial assistance programme launched by the Assam government, is designed to encourage rural women entrepreneurs, especially those who are involved in self-help groups.
  • The programme has restrictions, such as a maximum number of children that must be eligible.
  • Women from Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Scheduled Castes (SCs) are restricted to having four children, while women from the general and OBC categories are only allowed to have three.
  • The goal of the MMUA plan is to help rural micro-entrepreneurs grow, with each member hoping to make Rs 1 lakh a year.
Population Norms and Scheme Conditions:
  • Following the announcement of a two-child policy for certain state-funded projects in 2021, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that all beneficiary schemes of the state government would eventually be connected to population regulations.
  • These rules have been temporarily loosened, nevertheless, by the MMUA plan.
  • There’s a four-child cap in place for other communities as well, such as the Moran, Motok, and ‘tea tribes’ seeking ST designation.
  • The purpose of tying the programme to the number of children is to make sure that funds are used effectively for business development, taking into account the time constraints that larger-family women experience.
Eligibility Criteria and Financial Support:
  • About 5 lakh of the 39 lakh women who participate in self-help groups in rural Assam would not be eligible for the programme because of the child restriction.
  • Beneficiaries can select one of the 145 business ideas that the government has created to receive the money.
  • First-year eligible participants who meet the minimum requirements are given Rs 10,000.
  • They get a loan of Rs 12,500 from a bank and Rs 12,500 from the government over the next two years, subject to fund utilisation.
  • Two other prerequisites are guaranteeing the survival of trees planted as part of the government’s tree plantation effort and enrolling girls in schools.
Policy Alignment and Future Initiatives:
  • The Chief Minister underlined that the MMUA programme is in line with the current population policy and stressed how crucial it is to make sure the grantees have the time and resources to concentrate on growing their businesses.
  • Furthermore, Assam is thinking about implementing a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), modelling itself after Gujarat’s and Uttarakhand’s.
  • The administration is awaiting the publication of Uttarakhand’s UCC, with Assamese tribal people receiving an exception.
PYQ: Empowering women is the key to control population growth”. Discuss (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2019)
Practice Question: Discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with the MMUA, considering its role in fostering economic empowerment and the overall socio-economic development of women in rural Assam. (250 words/15 m)

4. Indore and Surat Named Joint Winners of Cleanest City Award, Maharashtra Tops State Rankings in Swachh Survekshan 2023

Topic: Prelims
Important facts for prelims
Context:
  • In the Swachh Survekshan Awards, which are sponsored by the Union government, Indore and Surat have been jointly named the winners of the cleanest city category.
  • Retaining its status as the cleanest city, Indore has won this title for seven years running.
  • For the first time, Surat—which had finished second to Indore every year for the previous three won the top prize.
  • These cities ranked first among cities with a population of more than one lakh thanks to their remarkable metrics, which included 100% door-to-door garbage collection, 98% segregation at source, and 100% remediation of dumpsites.
Maharashtra Tops Cleanest States:
  • With an impressive 89.24% door-to-door trash collection and 67.76% source segregation, Maharashtra emerged as the top state.
  • Madhya Pradesh took second place with 54.1% source segregation and 90.59% door-to-door segregation.
  • The Safaimitra Surakshit Shehar award went to Chandigarh because it was the city with the highest levels of safety for sanitation workers.
  • Sasvad, Maharashtra, was named the cleanest city with fewer than one lakh residents, while Varanasi was named the cleanest “Ganga town.”
  • The distinction of being the cleanest cantonment went to Mhow Cantonment.
National Rankings and Feedback Mechanism:
  • Door-to-door garbage collection, source segregation, clean water bodies, public area cleanliness, and citizen comments on city cleanliness are all included in the rankings.
  • Notably, this is the first time that two cities have shared the top prize in the awards’ seven-year history.
  • Navi Mumbai achieved the third rank in the category of cleanest cities.
  • Conversely, the lowest five states were Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Nagaland, and Tripura.
  • The yearly ranking comprised 4,416 urban local bodies, 61 cantonments, and 88 Ganga towns, garnering considerable citizen feedback, including 1.58 million online comments and 19.82 lakh face-to-face views.
President’s Emphasis on Waste Management:
  • During the award ceremony, President Droupadi Murmu stressed the value of generating profit from waste.
  • She emphasised the negative health effects of having mountains of trash cover urban territory and the need of efficient waste management for the general well-being of metropolitan communities.
Swachh Survekshan 2023
  • Swachh Survekshan was introduced by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) in 2016 as a competitive framework to encourage cities to improve the status of urban sanitation while encouraging large scale citizen participation.
  • Over the years, Swachh Survekshan has emerged as the largest Urban sanitation survey in the world.
Practice Question: Assess the effectiveness of the Swachh Survekshan initiative in promoting cleanliness, waste management, and citizens’ involvement in urban areas. (150 words/10 m)

5. South Africa accuses Israel of genocide in Palestine, asks UN court to intervene.

Topic: GS2 – International Relations – Effect of policies and politics of developing countries on India’s interests
The South Africa-Israel dispute on alleged genocide in Gaza adds geopolitical dimensions, critical for understanding international relations, for UPSC aspirants.
Context:
  • South Africa accuses Israel of genocide against Palestinians, urging the UN court to halt Israel’s military operation in Gaza.
  • Israel denies the allegations, sending a legal team to defend its actions amid concerns about its international standing.
What is in the news:
  • South Africa accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians, urging the UN’s top court to order an immediate halt to Israel’s military operation.
  • South African lawyers argue that the Gaza war is part of Israel’s decades-long oppression of Palestinians.
  • They request binding preliminary orders, including an immediate stop to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.
  • South Africa asserts that Israel deliberately committed genocide, presenting evidence over the past 13 weeks.
  • Israel, although traditionally skeptical of UN and international tribunals, sends a strong legal team to defend its military operation.
  • Israel denies the allegations, and the likelihood of compliance with any court order to halt operations is low.
  • Israel’s offensive in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run enclave, has claimed more than 23,200 Palestinian lives.
Impact of the News and India
  • Diplomatic Relations: India, a key player in global affairs, needs to navigate its response given its diplomatic ties with both South Africa and Israel.
  • Balancing Act: India has traditionally maintained strong ties with Israel, particularly in defense and technology. The news may require India to delicately balance its relationship with South Africa.
  • UN Dynamics: India’s stance on the issue at the UN may influence its diplomatic standing. India often emphasizes adherence to international law and could play a crucial role in any UN discussions.
  • Domestic Sensitivities: Given India’s diverse population and historical solidarity with the Palestinian cause, the news may resonate domestically, requiring a nuanced approach by the government.
  • Potential Mediator: India could use its diplomatic influence to encourage dialogue and peaceful resolution, reflecting its commitment to global stability.
Practice Question: Examine India’s diplomatic stance in the Israel-Palestine conflict, considering historical ties, global dynamics, and its potential role in promoting peace. (150 words/10 m)

6. Minorities’ right to establish, administer institutions was not to make them insular: SC

Topic: GS2 – Polity – Judiciary – Functioning
Crucial for UPSC as it involves constitutional interpretation of Article 30, impacting minority educational institutions’ administration and character.
Context:
  • The Supreme Court observes that Article 30(1) doesn’t intend to “ghettoise” minorities, stating that the minority status of educational institutions persists even if administrators are from other communities.
  • The context is a hearing on the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
Supreme Court Observation:
  • The right under Article 30(1) for minorities to establish educational institutions doesn’t aim to “ghettoise” them, as per the Supreme Court.
  Minority Institution Character:
  • The minority status isn’t lost if founders from a minority community appoint administrators from other communities, including the majority.
Chief Justice’s Statement:
  • Article 30 allows minorities the discretion to choose administrators, and it doesn’t mandate that only members of the minority community should run the institution.
  • The observations were made during a seven-judge Bench hearing related to the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
Kapil Sibal’s Submission:
  • Kapil Sibal argues that determining an institution’s minority character should consider its genesis, including inspiration, funding, and the minority community’s role in obtaining the minority tag.
Historical Context:
  • Refers to a 1967 case where a five-judge Bench ruled that AMU, as a central university, cannot be considered a minority institution.
  • The Centre contends that AMU’s “national character” disqualifies it as a minority institution.
Article 30 of Indian Constitution
Indian minorities (religion & language) can set up and run their own schools. Government can’t discriminate against them for funding, but ensures fair compensation if acquiring their property. It seeks to protect cultural diversity in education.

7. SC questions Centre on GM mustard

Topic: GS3 – Agriculture – Technology in the aid of farmers.
The topic is crucial for UPSC as it involves Supreme Court scrutiny of GM crop approval and regulatory transparency.
Context:
  • The Supreme Court questioned the Indian government on the approval of transgenic mustard hybrid DMH-11.
  • The apex court asked if the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee considered court-appointed experts’ reports on biosafety before granting environmental release.
Supreme Court’s observations:
  • The Supreme Court questioned the government regarding the approval of the transgenic mustard hybrid DMH-11 for environmental release by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).
  • The court inquired whether the GEAC had taken into consideration the reports of the Technical Experts Committee (TEC) appointed by the court to assess the biosafety of DMH-11.
  • The Attorney-General, representing the Centre, argued that the GEAC is a statutory body and had thoroughly examined relevant scientific data before approving the environmental release.
  • The Attorney-General emphasized that the regulatory framework had been strengthened since 2012, providing a transparent and science-based approach to environmental risk assessment for genetically modified (GM) crops.
  • He pointed out that the conditional approval for the environmental release of GM mustard demonstrated the effective implementation of the enhanced regulatory framework.
Genetic Crops – And Issues Associated
Definition: Genetically modified (GM) crops have had their DNA altered in a lab to introduce desired traits, such as disease resistance or increased yield. Issues Associated:
  • Safety concerns: Long-term health and environmental impacts of consuming or cultivating GM crops are still being studied. Public awareness and scientific research are crucial.
  • Corporate control: Large companies often own patents on GM seeds, raising concerns about farmer dependence and seed monopolies. Fair access and equitable distribution of technology are essential.
  • Biodiversity loss: Overreliance on a few GM varieties can reduce genetic diversity and harm natural ecosystems. Sustainable agricultural practices and crop diversification are key.
  • Ethical considerations: Modifying living organisms raises ethical questions about manipulating nature and potential unintended consequences. Open dialogue and transparent decision-making are crucial.
Way Forward:
  • Rigorous scientific research and independent monitoring: Ensure long-term safety assessments and transparent data sharing to build public trust.
  • Regulation and risk assessment: Implement robust regulatory frameworks that balance innovation with potential risks.
  • Farmer empowerment and choice: Foster farmer education, promote diverse seed options, and protect farmers’ rights to save and share seeds.
  • Sustainable agriculture: Encourage practices that enhance biodiversity, soil health, and ecosystem resilience.
  • Open dialogue and public engagement: Facilitate informed public discussions about GM technology and its potential benefits and risks.
Practice Question: Critically examine the potential of genetically modified crops for enhancing food security in India, while considering the associated concerns and ethical dimensions. (250 words/15 m)

8. Simultaneous elections won’t work: Mamata

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – Elections
UPSC relevance: ‘One nation, one election’ critique involves federalism concerns, influencing governance dynamics, and constitutional aspects. 
Context:
  • West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee opposes the ‘one nation, one election’ concept, expressing concerns about its impact on the federal structure and practical challenges if the central government faces instability.
Additional information on this news:
  • West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee opposes ‘one nation, one election’ terming it an attempt to introduce a presidential form of government.
  • Expresses practical concerns, questioning the fate of state governments if the central government loses majority and falls.
  • Writes a letter to the high-level committee led by former President Ram Nath Kovind, stating conceptual difficulties and asserting it goes against the federal structure.
Simultaneous Elections
Benefits:
  • Reduced Cost: Saves public and parties money by consolidating multiple election cycles.
  • Improved Governance: Focuses government on policy, not campaigning, potentially increasing efficiency.
  • Enhanced Efficiency: Reduces administrative burden and disruption caused by repeated elections.
  • •        Voter Turnout: May increase due to greater national focus and public engagement.
  • Political Stability: Creates a more predictable political landscape with fewer interruptions.
Challenges:
  • Logistical complexity: Coordinating simultaneous elections across diverse regions is a massive undertaking.
  • Constitutional hurdles: May require amendments to existing laws and procedures.
  • Erosion of federalism: Could overemphasize national issues at the expense of local concerns.
  • Dominant party advantage: Incumbents with wider media reach and resources may benefit disproportionately.
  • Impact on regional parties: May marginalize smaller, regional parties with limited national presence.
Way Forward:
  • Broad consensus: Building political and public support through national dialogue and debate.
  • Phased implementation: Starting with select elections before implementing nationwide.
  • Constitutional amendments: Carefully revising relevant laws to ensure fairness and address legal constraints.
  • Strengthening institutions: Ensuring an independent Election Commission and robust democratic processes.
  • Providing safeguards for regional representation and autonomy within the system.
PYQ: Simultaneous election to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies will limit the amount of time and money spent in electioneering but it will reduce the governments accountability to the peopleDiscuss. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2017) (150 words/10 m)

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