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14 May 2024 : Daily Current Affairs

1. India and Iran Strengthen Maritime Ties with 10-Year Contract for Chabahar Port Operation

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Explained; Page: 13)

Topic: GS2 – International Relations – Bilateral Relations
Context:
  • India and Iran recently signed a 10-year contract for the operation of a terminal at the strategically important Chabahar port in Iran.
  • Chabahar, situated in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province, is the closest Iranian port to India and offers easy and secure access for large cargo ships.
Everything You Need To Know AboutAnalysis of News:

Investment and Cooperation:

  • India Ports Global Ltd (IPGL) will invest approximately $120 million to equip and operate the port under the contract.
  • Additionally, India has offered a credit window equivalent to $250 million in rupees for mutually identified infrastructure projects related to the port.
  • This signifies India’s commitment to bolstering its maritime connectivity and trade routes.

Historical Context and Slow Start:

  • Chabahar’s modern development traces back to the 1970s, with Iran recognizing its strategic importance during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
  • Initial discussions between Iran and India began in 2002, aiming to develop Chabahar as a key gateway linking South Asia with the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Europe.
  • However, progress was hindered by geopolitical factors, including Iran’s strained relations with the US.

Progress After 2015:

  • Significant progress was made post-2015, following talks between Iran and the P-5+1 nations.
  • Coordination between India, Iran, and Afghanistan led to the signing of a Trilateral Agreement in May 2016 to establish the International Transport and Transit Corridor, enhancing regional connectivity and economic prospects.

Operational Milestones and Humanitarian Aid:

  • Since December 2018, IPGL has been operating Chabahar port, handling substantial container traffic and facilitating the transshipment of humanitarian assistance, including wheat, pulses, and pesticides, to Afghanistan and Iran.
  • Prime Minister Modi’s discussions with President Raisi in August 2023 emphasized the importance of finalizing a long-term contract for Chabahar’s development.

Integration with INSTC:

  • Chabahar’s operationalization aligns with the larger connectivity project of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), connecting the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea and Europe.
  • Integration with INSTC enhances Chabahar’s commercial and strategic significance, optimizing Indian connectivity with Russia and Eurasia.

What is INSTC?

Everything You Need To Know About

  • The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project was originally decided between India, Iran, and Russia in 2000 in St Petersburg, and subsequently included 10 other central Asian and west Asian countries:
    • Azerbaijan Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, Oman, Syria, and Bulgaria are observers.
    • Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan are not party to the INSTC agreement but are interested in using the transport corridor.
  • It envisions a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road routes for transporting freight, aimed at reducing the carriage cost between India and Russia by about 30% and bringing down the transit time from 40 days by more than half.
  • The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia.

Objective:

  • The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Astrakhan, etc.

Significance: 

  • It would be provided as a viable and fairer alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Further, it will enhance regional connectivity.

Challenges and Future Prospects:

  • The conflict in Ukraine and its repercussions on Europe’s relationship with Russia have raised uncertainties about the future of projects like INSTC.
  • However, the strategic importance of Chabahar and its potential to bolster regional connectivity remain pivotal for India’s maritime and trade interests in the Eurasian region.
What is the Significance of Chabahar Port for India?
Everything You Need To Know AboutAbout:

  • Chabahar is Iran’s only oceanic port. It is situated in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, on the Makran coast.There are two main ports in Chabahar – the Shahid Kalantari port and the Shahid Beheshti port.
  • The Shahid Kalantari port was developed in the 1980s.
  • Iran had offered India the project of developing the Shahid Beheshti port which was well received by India.

Significance of Chabahar Port:

Alternative Trade Route:

  • Historically, India’s access to Afghanistan and Central Asia has been largely dependent on transit routes through Pakistan.
  • Chabahar Port offers an alternative route that bypasses Pakistan, reducing India’s reliance on its neighbor for trade with Afghanistan and beyond.
  • This is particularly important given the often-tense relations between India and Pakistan.
  • Also, Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Iran, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.

Economic Benefits:

  • Chabahar Port offers India a gateway to the resource-rich and economically vibrant region of Central Asia.
  • It can significantly enhance India’s trade and investment opportunities in these markets, potentially leading to economic growth and job creation in India.

Humanitarian Assistance:

  • Chabahar Port can serve as a crucial entry point for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
  • India can use the port to provide aid, infrastructure development support, and other assistance to Afghanistan, contributing to regional stability.

Strategic Influence:

  • By developing and operating Chabahar Port, India can enhance its strategic influence in the Indian Ocean region, thus strengthening India’s geopolitical position.

 

PYQ: What is the importance of developing Chabahar Port by India? (2017)

(a) India’s trade with African countries will enormously increase.

(b) India’s relations with oil-producing Arab countries will be strengthened.

(c) India will not depend on Pakistan for access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

(d) Pakistan will facilitate and protect the installation of a gas pipeline between Iraq and India.

Ans: (c)

Practice Question:  What are the strategic implications of India and Iran’s recent agreement for the operation of Chabahar port, and how does it align with India’s broader maritime and economic interests in the region? (250 words/15 m)

 

2. First Recipient of Pig Kidney Transplant Dies: Implications and Challenges for Xenotransplantation

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Explained; Page: 13)

Topic: GS3 – Science & Technology
Context:
  • The death of the first person to receive a pig kidney transplant has raised questions about the viability and safety of xenotransplantation, a procedure that holds promise in addressing the shortage of human organ donors.
Analysis of News:

Understanding Xenotransplantation:

  • Xenotransplantation involves the transplantation of living cells, tissues, or organs from one species to another.
  • In human medicine, it refers to procedures where animal cells, tissues, or organs are transplanted into human recipients.
  • This can include the transplantation of animal organs such as pig kidneys.

Genetic Modifications and Procedure:

  • To ensure compatibility and reduce the risk of rejection, animal organs undergo genetic modifications before transplantation.
  • In the case of the pig kidney transplant, gene editing technology like CRISPR-Cas9 was employed to modify the pig kidney’s genes to make it more compatible with the human recipient.
  • The procedure involves complex genomic edits to remove genes that produce sugars triggering immune responses and add human genes to enhance compatibility.

Choice of Pigs:

  • Pigs are commonly used for xenotransplantation due to their anatomical and physiological similarities to humans.
  • Their organs, particularly heart valves, have been used in human medicine for decades.
  • Pigs are easily bred in farms, and their organs can be harvested in a cost-effective manner.
  • Additionally, the variety in pig breeds allows for better matching of organs with the specific needs of human recipients.

Complications and Challenges:

  • One of the primary challenges of xenotransplantation, similar to regular organ transplants, is preventing the rejection of the transplanted organ by the recipient’s immune system.
  • Patients receiving xenotransplants are put on immunosuppressants, leaving them susceptible to infections and other complications.
  • Moreover, transplanted organs may carry infectious agents, potentially leading to disease transmission in humans.

Medical Need and Potential Benefits:

  • Xenotransplantation holds promise in addressing the significant gap between the demand for organ transplants and the availability of donor organs.
  • Thousands of patients die each year while awaiting organ transplants, highlighting the urgent need for alternative solutions.
  • Additionally, there is evidence suggesting that xenotransplantation could be used to treat certain neurodegenerative disorders and diabetes, further underscoring its potential medical benefits.

Conclusion:

  • While xenotransplantation offers a potential solution to the organ shortage crisis, it also presents significant challenges and risks that must be carefully addressed.
  • The recent death of the recipient of a pig kidney transplant underscores the importance of thorough research, stringent safety measures, and ongoing monitoring in the field of xenotransplantation.

 

Practice Question:  What are the implications and challenges associated with xenotransplantation following the death of the first recipient of a pig kidney transplant? (250 words/15 m)

3. UN-linked body defers accreditation of NHRC-India for second year in a row

(Source – The Hindu,  Section – Front, Page No. – 1)

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – Statutory Bodies
Context
The National Human Rights Commission-India (NHRC) faced a setback as its accreditation was deferred by GANHRI for the second year due to transparency and representation issues.

●  Concerns were raised about appointments, police oversight, and lack of diversity in the commission’s composition.

 Analysis of the news:

  • The National Human Rights Commission-India (NHRC) faced a setback as its accreditation by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) was deferred for the second consecutive year.
Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI):
Formation: The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) is an international association established in 1993 to support and strengthen national human rights institutions (NHRIs) worldwide.

●  Membership: GANHRI consists of NHRIs from various countries, including ombudsmen, human rights commissions, and similar bodies accredited or recognized by their respective governments.

Mandate: GANHRI’s mandate includes promoting and protecting human rights in accordance with international standards, strengthening the capacity and independence of NHRIs, and facilitating cooperation and collaboration among member institutions.

●  Activities: GANHRI conducts training programs, workshops, and capacity-building initiatives for NHRIs, facilitates peer learning and exchange of best practices, and advocates for the establishment and strengthening of NHRIs globally.

Advocacy: GANHRI engages in advocacy efforts at the international level to promote the role and importance of NHRIs in advancing human rights, including through participation in United Nations forums and processes.

  • The decision, made during the Subcommittee on Accreditation (SCA) meeting, cited issues like lack of transparency in appointments, presence of police officers overseeing human rights investigations, and insufficient gender and minority representation.
  • GANHRI conveyed the deferral to NHRC, noting that some demands were challenging to meet during India’s general elections.
  • NHRC’s “A-status” has been deferred only once before in 2016 but was restored in 2017. This is the first time it’s been suspended for two consecutive years.
  • Civil society organisations and activists raised concerns, prompting the deferral.
  • GANHRI emphasised the need for pluralism in NHRC’s composition, highlighting the lack of representation of India’s largest minority religions.
  • While one ex-officio member represents minorities, GANHRI stressed the need for broader diversity.
  • Current NHRC members’ tenures are ending soon, raising questions about replacements and potential changes under the new government post-elections.
 The National Human Rights Commission-India:
Establishment: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India was established on October 12, 1993, under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

Mandate: NHRC is a statutory body tasked with promoting and protecting human rights in India.

Composition: The commission consists of a chairperson and several members appointed by the President of India, including representatives from diverse backgrounds.

Functions: NHRC investigates complaints of human rights violations, conducts inquiries, and recommends remedial measures to the government.

Powers: NHRC has the authority to summon witnesses, requisition documents, and intervene in court proceedings related to human rights issues.

Awareness and Education: NHRC conducts awareness programs, seminars, and workshops to promote human rights literacy and sensitivity among various stakeholders.

Monitoring: NHRC monitors the implementation of human rights safeguards and legal provisions at the national and state levels.

International Cooperation: NHRC collaborates with international organisations and human rights bodies to exchange information and best practices and participate in global human rights discourse.

PYQ: National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in India can be most effective when its tasks are adequately supported by other mechanisms that ensure the accountability of a government. In light of the above observation assess the role of NHRC as an effective complement to the judiciary and other institutions in promoting and protecting human rights standards. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2014)
Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of the recent deferral of accreditation for the National Human Rights Commission-India (NHRC) by GANHRI. Evaluate the key factors contributing to the decision and analyse its potential impact on India’s human rights governance framework. (250 Words /15 marks)

4. Finally, rocky planet with atmosphere found 41 light years away

(Source – The Hindu, Section – Science, Page No. – 7)

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology
Context
  • Astronomers have discovered a rocky exoplanet, 55 Cancri e, with an atmosphere beyond our solar system.
  • The planet orbits close to a dim star, with temperatures soaring to 1,725 degrees Celsius.
  • This finding, made using the James Webb Space Telescope, marks a significant milestone in exoplanet exploration.

 Analysis of the news:

  • Astronomers have discovered a rocky exoplanet, named 55 Cancri e or Janssen, beyond our solar system.
  • This “super-earth” orbits close to a star smaller and dimmer than the sun, completing an orbit every 18 hours.
 What is “super-earth”?
  • A “super-Earth” refers to an exoplanet with a mass larger than Earth’s but smaller than that of gas giants like Uranus and Neptune.
  • These planets are typically terrestrial, composed of rock and metals, and may have surface conditions that could support liquid water.

 

  • Infrared observations from the James Webb Space Telescope revealed the presence of a substantial atmosphere, likely rich in carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide.
 James Webb Space Telescope:
  • The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large, space-based observatory set to launch into orbit around the Earth.
  • Named after James E. Webb, former NASA administrator, it is a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
  • JWST is designed to be the premier observatory of the next decade, with the capability to observe the universe in infrared wavelengths.
  • Its primary mission objectives include studying the early universe, the formation of stars and galaxies, and the evolution of planetary systems.
  • JWST’s advanced instruments, including a large primary mirror and infrared detectors, will enable scientists to peer deeper into space and time than ever before.
  • The telescope’s deployment and operation will be a complex and carefully orchestrated process due to its size and distance from Earth.
  •  JWST’s observations are expected to revolutionise our understanding of the cosmos and uncover many mysteries of the universe.
  • The atmosphere may be replenished by gases released from a vast ocean of magma on the planet’s surface.
  • The thickness of the atmosphere remains uncertain but could rival that of Venus, known for its dense, toxic atmosphere.
  • 55 Cancri e is 8.8 times more massive than Earth, with a diameter twice as large, and surface temperatures reaching 1,725 degrees Celsius.
  • The planet is likely tidally locked, with one side perpetually facing its host star.
  • It is located 41 light-years away in the constellation Cancer and is part of a binary star system.
  • This discovery represents a milestone as it is the first rocky exoplanet found with an atmosphere, expanding our understanding of planetary diversity beyond our solar system.
Practice Question:  Examine the significance of the recent discovery of 55 Cancri e, a rocky exoplanet with an atmosphere, in the context of expanding our understanding of planetary diversity beyond our solar system. Discuss the implications of such findings for future space exploration and astrobiology. (150 Words /10 marks)

 

5. An overview of the Smart Cities Mission

(Source – The Hindu,  Section – Text, Page No. – 10)

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Issues arising out of their design & implementation.
Context
The article delves into the challenges and criticisms surrounding India’s Smart Cities Mission (SCM), initiated by the NDA-1 government.
● It highlights issues such as governance structure, funding constraints, and criticisms of exclusionary practices, shedding light on the complexities of urban development in India.

 Introduction:

  • The Smart Cities Mission (SCM), initiated by the NDA-1 government, aimed to transform urban landscapes into technologically advanced hubs.
  • However, the mission encountered challenges in its implementation and faced criticism for various reasons.

Defining Smart Cities:

  • The concept of “Smart City” emerged post-2009 financial crisis, envisioned as urban centres integrated with advanced communication networks.
  • Smart Cities were anticipated to resemble Silicon Valleys, incorporating robust infrastructure and advanced Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
 The Smart Cities Mission (SCM):
●     Launch: Initiated in June 2015 to foster cities with core infrastructure, sustainability, and improved quality of life through smart solutions.

  • City Selection: 100 cities chosen via competitive process between January 2016 to June 2018.
  • Time Frame: Cities allotted five years from selection for project completion.
  • Financial Allocation: ₹48,000 crore allocated over five years by central government; states and ULBs matched funds.
  • Exceptions: 13 Himalayan and northeastern states received 90% funding from the central government.
  • Convergence Funds: Utilised additional resources from various sources including ULBs’ own funds and government programs.
  • Alignment with SDGs: Over 70% of projects align with UN’s SDGs, notably SDG 11 on sustainable cities.
  • Achievements: Implemented digital transformation, significant water and sewage management projects, and renewable energy initiatives.
  • ●     Infrastructure Development: Focus on roads, water supply, sewage, waste management, and urban mobility improvements like metro lines and BRTS.

Objectives and Components of SCM:

  • The SCM, launched in June 2015, focused on area-based development and pan-city solutions.
  • Area-based development encompassed redevelopment, retrofitting, and greenfield projects, while pan-city solutions leveraged ICT for governance and infrastructure enhancement.
  • Key areas of intervention included e-governance, waste management, water and energy management, urban mobility, and skill development.

Governance Structure and Funding:

  • The SCM adopted a business model of governance, establishing Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) to oversee project implementation.
  • These SPVs, led by bureaucrats or representatives of multinational corporations, sidelined elected local bodies, limiting their role in governance.
  • Funding for SCM projects primarily relied on public-private partnerships (PPP), with the government’s contribution amounting to ₹1,67,875 crore.

Challenges and Criticisms of the Smart Cities Mission (SCM):

  • The selection of 100 cities for SCM implementation lacked consideration for the diverse urban realities across India, resulting in a mismatch between schemes and local needs.
  • The mission’s narrow focus led to the exclusion of many urban areas, with less than 1% of a city’s geographical area receiving attention.
  • Critics argued that the allocated funds were insufficient to address India’s urban infrastructure requirements, amounting to a mere fraction of the estimated capital expenditure needed by 2030.
  • Additionally, the SCM’s governance structure deviated from the principles outlined in the 74th Constitutional Amendment, triggering objections from various cities.
  • Displacement of marginalised communities, such as street vendors, and disruption of urban commons occurred during the execution of smart city projects.
  • Infrastructure development projects under the SCM inadvertently contributed to urban flooding in some regions by disrupting natural water channels and contours.

Status of SCM Projects:

  • As of April 26, 8,033 SCM projects have been sanctioned, with a total outlay of ₹1,67,875 crore.
  • While some projects have been completed, others are ongoing, with approximately 400 projects facing challenges in meeting the extended deadline of June 2024.
  • Notably, the PPP route accounted for less than 5% of the total funding, indicating limited private sector participation in SCM initiatives.

Conclusion:

  • Despite its ambitious goals, the SCM has encountered various hurdles in implementation, including governance issues, funding constraints, and criticisms regarding its exclusionary nature.
  • Addressing these challenges requires a reevaluation of the mission’s approach, prioritising inclusivity, local empowerment, and sustainable urban development to realise the vision of truly “smart” cities in India.
PYQ:
Q.1 With a brief background of quality of urban life in India, introduce the objectives and strategy of the ‘Smart City Programme’ (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2016)
Q.2 Smart cities in India cannot sustain without smart villages. Discuss this statement in the backdrop of rural urban integration. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2015)
Practice Question:  Discuss the governance challenges and criticisms associated with India’s Smart Cities Mission (SCM) in the context of urban development policies. (150 Words /10 marks)

 

6. What is the legal position on live-in relationships?

(Source – The Hindu, Section – Text, Page No. – 10)

Topic: GS1 – Indian Society – Effects of globalisation on Indian society

GS2 – Indian Polity

Context
The recent ruling by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court addresses the legality of a Muslim couple’s live-in relationship, where one partner was married.

The court’s decision highlights the intersection of religious tenets, constitutional rights, and societal norms in India’s legal landscape.

 Introduction:

  • The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court recently ruled on a case involving a Muslim couple in a live-in relationship where one partner was married.
  • The court stated that Islamic tenets do not permit live-in relationships during an existing marriage, rejecting the couple’s plea for protection under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Judicial Ruling:

  • The court emphasised that Islamic principles prohibit live-in relationships during an ongoing marriage, except for unmarried individuals.
  • It highlighted the distinction between constitutional morality and social morality, stating that Article 21 protection does not extend to such situations.
  • The ruling addressed the specific case of a married Muslim man involved in a live-in relationship, where his spouse had filed a kidnapping case against his partner.

Previous Legal Precedents:

  • Courts have grappled with cases involving live-in relationships, considering factors like marital status, faith, and children born out of wedlock.
  • A Supreme Court order stayed lower court rulings awarding maintenance to a woman in a live-in relationship, where both partners were married to others.
  • The Punjab and Haryana High Court refused protection to a couple in a similar situation, citing the potential offence of bigamy under the Indian Penal Code.

Legal Perspective on Live-in Relationships:

  • India lacks specific laws addressing live-in partnerships, but courts recognize the right to life includes the right to cohabit.
  • The judiciary presumes a man and woman in a long-term relationship as married, applying similar legal principles.
  • The concept of live-in relationships was acknowledged by the Allahabad High Court, asserting the legality despite societal disapproval.

Conclusion:

  • The recent ruling by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court underscores the legal complexities surrounding live-in relationships in India.
  • While the judiciary recognizes the right to cohabit, legal interpretations vary based on factors like marital status and religious considerations.
  • The evolving legal landscape reflects the tension between societal norms and individual rights, requiring nuanced legal analysis and consideration of constitutional principles.
Practice Question:  Discuss the legal complexities and societal implications surrounding live-in relationships.(150 Words /10 marks)

 

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