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Daily Current Affairs

13-February-2024- Top News of the Day

1. Indian Navy Personnel Released from Custody in Qatar, PM Modi to Visit Qatar to Strengthen Bilateral Ties

Topic: GS2 – International Relations – Bilateral Relations This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of Indo-Qatar relations.
Context:
  • The Ministry of External Affairs announced the release of eight former Indian Navy personnel from custody in Qatar, with seven of them returning to India.
More about the news: Role of Officials and Diplomatic Strategy:
  • National Security Advisor Ajit Doval played a significant role in facilitating the release, including a discreet visit to Doha.
  • Teams from the Ministry of External Affairs, Prime Minister’s Office, and Indian embassy in Doha collaborated closely under the supervision of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to execute the diplomatic strategy.
Official Statement and Identity of Detainees:
  • The Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement welcoming the release of the Indian nationals detained in Qatar.
  • The individuals were identified as former Navy personnel involved in overseeing the induction of Italian small stealth submarines U2I2 for Doha-based Dahra Global.
Charges and Sentence:
  • The eight men were taken into custody in August 2022 and sentenced to death in October, reportedly on charges of spying for Israel.
  • India condemned the sentence as “deeply shocking,” and diplomatic efforts were intensified to secure their release.
Consular Access and Commutation of Sentence:
  • The Indian ambassador in Doha met the detainees in prison, and consular access was granted.
  • Subsequently, the death sentence was commuted following the meeting between Prime Minister Modi and the Emir of Qatar in Dubai on December 1.
Upcoming Visit and Bilateral Meetings:
  • Prime Minister Modi’s forthcoming visit to Qatar aims to strengthen bilateral ties and discuss regional and international issues of mutual importance.
  • The visit underscores the multifaceted partnership between India and Qatar, including political, trade, investment, energy, and cultural ties.
  • Before Qatar, Modi will visit the UAE to engage with its leadership, address the Indian diaspora, and attend the World Government Summit.
India-Qatar Relations and Collaborative Efforts
Long Partnership:
  • India and Qatar are natural partners with ties going back to 1973.
NRI in Qatar:
  • Indians are the largest expatriate community in Qatar.
  • Qatar hosts 0.74 million Indian expatriates.
  • Its 210-strong delegation at the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas event in Indore last year was the second biggest, next only to the Mauritius delegation.
Political Relationship:
  • 2023 marks 50 years of establishment of full diplomatic relations between India and Qatar.
  • India was among the few countries which recognized Qatar soon after its independence in 1971.
  • The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, visited India in 2015, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Qatar in 2016.
Economic Relations:
  • In 2021, India was among the top four export destinations for Qatar.
  • It is among the top three sources of Qatar’s imports.
Bilateral Trade:
  • $15 billion, which is mostly LNG and LPG exports from Qatar worth over $13 billion.
  • India’s export to Qatar during 2021-22 was US$ 1.83 billion and India’s import from Qatar was US$ 13.19 billion.
Strategic Cooperation:
  • Defence cooperation as “an important pillar of our bilateral agenda.
  • India and Qatar signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement in November 2008.
Exercise Zair-Al-Bahr:
  • It is a bilateral maritime exercise between the two navies. It aims to further strengthen the maritime exchanges between the two countries and enhance maritime security in the region.
  • India also offers training slots in its defence institutions to Qatar, and Indian Navy and Coast Guard ships regularly visit Qatar as part of the bilateral cooperation.
Practice Question:  Discuss the recent release of Indian Navy personnel from custody in Qatar and analyze the diplomatic efforts undertaken to secure their freedom. How does Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Qatar contribute to strengthening bilateral relations between India and Qatar? (250 words/15 m)

2. Law Commission Report Calls for Overhaul of Epidemic Laws, Urges Creation of Epidemic Plan and SOP

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of the recommendations made by the Law Commission for the overhaul of epidemic laws.
Context:
  • The 286th Law Commission Report emphasizes the need for the creation of an Epidemic Plan and a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to effectively manage epidemics in the country.
  • It highlights the lack of clear demarcation between the powers of the Centre, state, and local authorities during epidemics, leading to uncoordinated responses.
More about the news: Critique of Existing Legislation:
  • The report criticizes the limitations of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 (EDA), stating that it is outdated and inadequate to combat modern issues associated with the spread of infectious diseases.
  • It underscores the challenges posed by globalization and increased connectivity, which can escalate infectious diseases into epidemics or pandemics rapidly.
Response to Covid-19 Pandemic:
  • Prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Law Commission initiated a comprehensive examination of the existing legal framework to address deficiencies in containing and managing future epidemics in the country.
Proposed Amendments and New Legislation:
  • The report advocates for significant amendments to the EDA or the introduction of new legislation altogether, considering the potential for abuse inherent in colonial-era laws.
  • It proposes the creation of an Epidemic Plan and an SOP to ensure a coordinated response to public health emergencies.
Key Recommendations:
  • The central government is urged to collaborate with state governments and relevant stakeholders to develop the Epidemic Plan.
  • This plan should include provisions for quarantine, isolation, lockdowns, disease surveillance, medical supplies regulation, public information dissemination, and waste management.
Enforcement Mechanisms:
  • To enforce the Epidemic Plan effectively, the report suggests the establishment of an SOP defining three stages of infectious disease spread and appropriate responses at each stage.
  • This aims to prevent conflicts between states and the central government while ensuring a cohesive approach to epidemic management.
Conclusion:
  • Overall, the 286th Law Commission Report underscores the necessity of updating legal frameworks to address contemporary challenges posed by infectious diseases.
  • By recommending the creation of an Epidemic Plan and an SOP, it seeks to enhance coordination and response mechanisms to safeguard public health during epidemics.
Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897
The goal of the Epidemic Diseases Act is to improve measures to stop the spread of harmful epidemic diseases. In order to combat or stop a disease outbreak, the public may be required to abide by interim rules or restrictions under the Act. The Act contains four sections. Section 1:
  • Describes the title and extent of the Act
  • It extends to the whole of India.
Section 2:
  • Powers to take special measures
  • Authority to implement specific actions
It gives state governments the authority to create restrictions and take specific action to stop the outbreak. The State may impose rules governing the examination of individuals travelling by train or other means, as well as the temporary hospital segregation of those who the inspecting officials believe to be infected. The Act’s Section 2A gives the central government the authority to take action to stop an epidemic from spreading. Although health is a state matter, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare’s recommendations and directives will be enforceable by using Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act. It gives the government the authority to hold anyone planning to travel abroad or enter the nation, as well as the ability to inspect any ship entering or departing from any port. Section 3: Penalty for Disobedience
  • Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (disobedience to order lawfully proclaimed by a public servant) outlines the consequences for defying any regulations or orders imposed under the Act.
Section 4: Legal Protection to Implementing Officers:
  •  It provides the implementing officials operating under the Act with legal protection.
Practice Question:  Discuss the recommendations proposed by the Law Commission for the overhaul of epidemic laws in India, focusing on the creation of an Epidemic Plan and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Analyze the significance of these proposed reforms in enhancing the country’s preparedness and response mechanisms during public health emergencies. (250 words/15 m)

3. Farmers Resurrect Protest, March towards Delhi: New Leadership and Demands Shape Agitation

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Issues arising out of their design & implementation
This topic is not much relevant for Prelims but for Mains in the context of contemporary socio-political issues in the country.
Context:
  • After more than two years since the end of their previous protest, farmers have resumed their agitation and are marching towards Delhi once again.
  • The protest of 2024 differs from the earlier one in terms of demands and leadership, with new organizations leading the current agitation.
More about the news: Leadership Dynamics:
  • Unlike the previous protest, the current agitation is led by the Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM) and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-political), both of which have distinct leadership from the 2020-21 protest.
  • The original Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which led the earlier agitation, is not actively involved in the current protest.
Farmers’ Demands:
  • The farmers have presented a 12-point agenda, with the primary demand being a law guaranteeing minimum support price (MSP) for all crops.
  • Other demands include:
    • full debt waiver,
    • implementation of the Land Acquisition Act of 2013,
    • punishment for the perpetrators of the Lakhimpur Kheri killings, among others.
Government Response:
  • The farmers’ demands were emailed to the Ministries of Agriculture and Commerce and Industry, and subsequently discussed in meetings with Union Ministers.
  • However, the Haryana government has tightened security measures by sealing borders and imposing prohibitory orders, while the central government claims to have an open mind regarding the farmers’ demands.
Ongoing Negotiations and Developments:
  • Talks between the farmers and government ministers are ongoing, with both sides engaging in discussions.
  • Meanwhile, the Haryana government has intensified security measures by sealing borders and imposing restrictions, leading to a tense situation on the ground.
Political Support and Opposition:
  • While parties like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress have extended support to the farmers, the BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal have remained silent.
  • The political landscape surrounding the protest remains dynamic, with various parties and stakeholders involved.
Conclusion:
  • The renewed farmers’ protest in 2024, with its distinct leadership and demands, signifies ongoing tensions between farmers and the government over agricultural policies.
  • The evolving situation underscores the complexities of agrarian issues and the need for constructive dialogue and resolution.
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance and implications of the recent farmers’ protest in India, highlighting its demands, and analyze its relevance in the context of contemporary socio-political developments in the country. (250 words/15 m)

4. Escalating Human-Animal Conflict Threatens Kerala's Wayanad District

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Conservation This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of human-animal conflict, particularly in regions like Wayanad, Kerala, where wild elephants pose a significant threat to human lives and property, is of relevance to the UPSC examination, especially in the context of environmental conservation and management.
Context:
  • The recent death of a man in Wayanad due to a wild elephant attack has reignited tensions in the region, prompting calls for action from local residents.
  • This incident sheds light on the persisting human-animal conflict in Kerala, particularly in districts like Wayanad, Kannur, Palakkad, and Idukki.
More about the news: Extent of Human-Animal Conflict:
  • Kerala has witnessed a surge in human-animal conflict, with elephants, tigers, bison, and wild boars causing significant damage and posing threats to human lives.
  • Data for 2022-23 revealed over 8,800 wild animal attacks, resulting in 98 deaths, with elephants accounting for a substantial portion of the fatalities.
Wayanad’s Vulnerability:
  • Wayanad, known for its lush forests, faces heightened vulnerability due to its location adjacent to major wildlife reserves in neighboring states.
  • The district has witnessed numerous human casualties from encounters with elephants and tigers over the past decade, exacerbated by the frequent movement of wildlife across state borders.
Causes of Conflict:
  • Several factors contribute to the escalating conflict, including the decline in forest quality due to the cultivation of invasive plant species like acacia and eucalyptus.
  • Additionally, changing agricultural practices, abandonment of farmland, and encroachment on animal habitats exacerbate the issue.
State Initiatives and Challenges:
  • Kerala has implemented various measures to address the conflict, such as the construction of elephant-proof trenches, stone walls, and electric fencing.
  • However, these efforts are insufficient to mitigate the crisis.
  • The state also aims to acquire land for eco-restoration and forest expansion but faces challenges in relocation and funding.
Response and Support:
  • While Kerala has requested central assistance to tackle the crisis, the lack of funding from the Centre has hindered its efforts.
  • The state is urged to devise innovative solutions and mobilize its own resources to address the pressing issue of human-animal conflict effectively.
PYQ: Consider the following statements in respect of Trade Related Analysis of Fauna and Flora in Commerce (TRAFFIC): (2017)
  1. 1) TRAFFIC is a bureau under United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  2. 2) The mission of TRAFFIC is to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.
Which of the above statements is/are correct? (a) 1 only (b) 2 only (c) Both 1 and 2 (d) Neither 1 nor 2 Ans: (b)
Practice Question:  Analyze the human-wildlife conflict situation in Wayanad, Kerala, focusing on the recent incident involving a wild elephant, its underlying causes, and the measures taken by the government to address the issue. Evaluate the effectiveness of existing strategies and propose innovative solutions to mitigate human-animal conflicts in the region. (250 words/15 m)

5. Appointing Deputy CMs not a breach of Constitution: SC

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – State Legislature/Executive Supreme Court upholds Deputy Chief Ministers’ appointments, confirming constitutionality, relevant for governance and constitutional understanding in UPSC preparation.
Context
  • Supreme Court rejects petition challenging Deputy Chief Ministers’ appointments, stating they don’t violate the Constitution.
 Additional information on this news:
  • Supreme Court dismisses petition challenging Deputy Chief Ministers’ appointments in States.
  • Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud leads a three-judge Bench in the decision.
  • Court states that Deputy CMs are essentially MLAs and Ministers in State governments.
  • CJI asserts that such appointments do not violate the Constitution.
  • The petitioner, Public Political Party, claims appointments are based on religious and sectarian considerations.
  • Petitioner argues against the appointments, citing violation of Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 15 (state not to discriminate).
  • Supreme Court dismisses the petition, stating it lacks substance and finds no constitutional breach.
Post of Deputy Chief Minister in States – Constitutionality
  • Not unconstitutional: Supreme Court ruled that the post doesn’t violate the Constitution.
  • Reasoning: It’s seen as a label for a regular minister, with no extra legal powers or salary.
  • Challenged: Petition argued it violated equality before the law (Article 14) and lacked basis.
  • Court’s view: Appointment remains a political decision within state powers.
  • Impact: States can continue appointing Deputy Chief Ministers without legal concerns
Practice Question:  Critically examine the constitutional implications of the Deputy Chief Minister post in Indian states (150 words/10 m)

6. Earth-wide telescope confirms black hole’s shadow is ‘real’

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology – Space
Crucial for UPSC: EHT’s black hole revelations test general relativity, enhance astrophysical understanding, and demonstrate advanced observational techniques.
Context
  • The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) unveils new details of a colossal black hole 53 million light-years away, confirming the stability of its ring-formation process and providing insights into accretion disk dynamics.
 Additional information on this news:  Black Hole Details:
  • Earth-wide EHT revealed a colossal black hole 53 million light-years away in 2017.
  • New data, published on January 18, provides detailed images of the black hole’s event horizon.
  • Confirms the formation of a distinct ring around the black hole.
Improved Telescope Setup:
  • EHT, a global network of radio telescopes, enhanced its coverage and resolution.
  • Nine stations collected data across six observation days in April 2018, at four frequencies.
  • Greenland Telescope addition improved resolution in the north-south direction.
Confirmation of Black Hole ‘Shadow’:
  • EHT scientists confirmed the presence of the black hole ‘shadow,’ consistent with 2017 observations.
  • Size and shape of the shadow remain unchanged, supporting general relativity predictions.
Use of GRMHD Simulations:
  • Scientists employed general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations to model the black hole.
  • Simulations revealed an asymmetric ring structure approximately 42 microarcseconds wide.
  • Gravitational lensing effect explained the observed brightness variations.
Accretion Disk and Jet Dynamics:
  • Changes observed in parts of the accretion disk and jet between 2017 and 2018.
  • A 30-degree shift attributed to the spin of the black hole.
  • Complex interplay between the accretion disk, jet, and magnetic field structure studied for insights.
Future Prospects:
  • EHT plans a ‘movie project’ in 2026, tracking the black hole over a month to observe brightness changes.
  • Continuous improvement in observational techniques and reconciliation of measurement discrepancies expected.
Scientific Significance:
  • Provides valuable insights into hidden physics governing black hole characteristics.
  • Reaffirms the stability of the black hole’s ring-formation process.
  • Consistent findings across multiple observation periods and frequencies enhance reliability.
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:  What recent advancements has the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) made in understanding black holes, and how does it contribute to astrophysical knowledge. (250 words/15 m)

7. Decoding India’s economic realities-II

Topic: GS3 – Indian economy -Issues Related to Growth UPSC Significance: Analyzing Government’s economic policies offers insights into employment, agriculture, NPAs, and challenges, crucial for civil service preparation.
Context
  • The article critiques the NDA government’s economic policies, highlighting challenges in the Skill India Mission, inadequate measures in addressing food inflation.
  • The article also raises concerns over non-performing assets, rupee depreciation, and discrepancies in income and employment trends, questioning the efficacy of the Union Budget.
 Additional information on this news:  Skill India Mission and Unemployment:
  • Finance Minister claims 1.4 crore youth trained under ‘Skill India Mission.’
  • Data reveals only 22% reported placed, contributing to excess supply of skilled workers.
  • Excess supply hampers wage growth and employment.
Agriculture and Food Inflation:
  • NDA fails to address supply side factors driving food inflation.
  • Three farm laws enacted for corporate takeover faced protests, subsequently rescinded.
  • Inadequate measures for agricultural productivity and modernization.
Foreign Exchange and Rupee Depreciation:
  • NDA reverses fall in foreign exchange reserves but sees rupee depreciate to ₹83 per dollar.
  • Rupee’s depreciation imports global inflation, impacting domestic economy.
Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) and PSBs:
  • NDA claims credit for reducing Gross NPAs, but massive NPA write-offs raise concerns.
  • PSBs absorb losses; massive capital infusion to bail them out raises debt burden.
Income and Employment Trends:
  • Finance Minister claims 50% increase in average real income; data suggests a slowdown.
  • Unemployment rates decline but remain higher compared to previous NSS rounds.
  • Growing informalization of the labor force challenges claims of increased formalization.
Skilled Workers and Wage Growth:
  • Skill India Mission’s claim of training 1.4 crore youth contradicted by placement data.
  • Excess supply of skilled workers dampens wage and earnings growth.
  • Average earnings growth for self-employed workers indicates a decline in real earnings.
Overall Critique:
  • Budget impact questioned in terms of ordinary people’s lives.
  • Unaddressed challenges in agriculture, foreign exchange, NPAs, and employment trends.
  • Discrepancies in claims and actual outcomes raise concerns about the effectiveness of policies.
PYQ: Despite Consistent experience of High growth, India still goes with the lowest indicators of human development. Examine the issues that make balanced and inclusive development elusive. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2019)

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