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Daily Current Affairs

14-November-2023

1. Retail inflation eases to a four-month low of 4.87% in October.

Topic: GS3 – Indian economy.

Context:

  • Retail inflation in India eased to a four-month low of 4.87% in October, down from slightly over 5% in September.
  • The rise in vegetable prices decelerated to 2.7% from 3.4%, contributing to the overall moderation in inflation.
  • Overall consumer food price inflation remained largely unchanged at 6.6%.
  • Prices of non-food items, including services, clothing and footwear, also showed some deceleration.

What is retail inflation?

Retail inflation refers to the increase in the average prices of goods and services that consumers typically purchase for personal consumption.

  • It measures the rate at which the general level of prices for consumer goods and services rises, indicating the decrease in purchasing power of a currency.
  • Retail inflation is often expressed as a percentage and is used to assess the impact of price changes on the cost of living for the average consumer.
  • It is based on a basket of goods and services that represents the typical consumption patterns of an average household, including items like food, clothing, housing, healthcare, and transportation.
  • Central banks and policymakers monitor retail inflation to make decisions on interest rates and other economic policies to maintain price stability and support overall economic health.
  • High retail inflation can erode the purchasing power of consumers, while deflation (negative inflation) can lead to economic stagnation and reduced consumer spending.

2. Nine dead in a fire in Hyderabad building

Topic: GS3 – disaster management

Context:

  • A massive fire broke out in a four-storey residential building in Nampally, Hyderabad, resulting in a tragic incident.
  • Nine people lost their lives in the fire, highlighting the severity of the incident.

Disaster management against fire hazard:

  • Establish and enforce building codes and regulations to ensure fire-resistant construction materials and safety measures are in place.
  • Conduct regular fire safety inspections and drills in residential and commercial buildings to ensure compliance with safety standards.
  • Provide fire safety education and awareness programs to the public, emphasizing the importance of fire prevention and preparedness.
  • Maintain a well-equipped and trained fire department with modern firefighting equipment and personnel trained in fire suppression and rescue operations.
  • Implement a robust emergency response system with clear communication channels to report fires and coordinate emergency services.
  • Promote the use of fire-resistant materials in building construction and the installation of fire alarms, sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers.
  • Establish community-based disaster management and response teams to assist in evacuations and emergency support during fire incidents.
  • Ensure public access to fire hydrants, emergency exits, and escape routes in buildings and public spaces.
  • Conduct regular fire hazard assessments in high-risk areas and implement preventive measures to reduce fire risks.

Question: Discuss the key components of disaster management strategies to mitigate fire hazards in urban areas.

3. Community rights and forest conservation

Topic: GS2 – environment and ecology

Introduction

  • Forest Conservation Amendment Act of 2023 has implications for forests and their inhabitants.
  • Several laws and policies have been enacted over the years, but indigenous community rights have been overlooked.

The New Amendment

  • Aims to address climate change and deforestation.
  • Focuses on effective forest management and afforestation.
  • Excludes certain forest areas from the law’s jurisdiction, allowing economic exploitation.
  • Authorizes the construction of security measures and facilities in specified areas.
  • Allows for initiatives like ecotourism, safari, and environmental entertainment.
  • Aims to improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities, drawing criticism.

Reasons for the Amendment

  • Driven by industrial interests to free forest land from legal restrictions.
  • Controversial interpretation of forest land following the Godavarman Thirumulkpad case.
  • Aimed at restricting forest land for non-forest purposes, causing opposition from forest conservationists.
  • Passed in Parliament without extensive debates or discussions.

Impact on Indigenous Communities

  • The removal of forests from the Forest Conservation Act may hinder indigenous communities’ rights.
  • The amendment omits the stipulation of ‘prior consent’ from tribal grama sabhas.
  • State governments can proactively engage in land acquisition for various purposes through grama sabhas.
  • Concerns about the environmental implications of compensatory afforestation.

Impact on Forest Rights Act (FRA)

  • The FRA has faced challenges in implementation, viewed as an impediment to non-forest land conversion.
  • Government opts to limit Adivasi claims by reducing forest areas rather than amending the FRA.
  • Growing human-animal conflicts in forest areas pose challenges.

Challenges and Concerns

  • Afforestation projects contradict the concept of forest governance.
  • Conflict with the idea of decentralised forest governance.
  • Complex definition of strategic linear projects.
  • Neglect of internal environmental security and natural disasters.

Conclusion

  • The Forest Conservation Amendment Act of 2023 raises important issues related to forest management, indigenous rights, and environmental security in India.

Question: Critically analyze the implications of the Forest Conservation Amendment Act of 2023 on indigenous communities, forest management, and environmental security in India.

4. Centre extends UAPA ban on eight Meitei extremist organisations

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Context:

  • The Union Home Ministry extended the ban under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against eight “Meitei extremist organizations.”
  • These organizations advocate secession of Manipur from India through armed struggle.

About Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA):

  • The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) is an Indian anti-terrorism law.
  • It was enacted in 1967 to provide more effective control over unlawful activities and associations dealing with terrorism.
  • UAPA allows for the banning of unlawful associations and the prosecution of individuals involved in unlawful activities.
  • The law provides for the powers of the government to declare an organization as unlawful and impose a ban on it.
  • It grants authorities the ability to detain individuals without filing formal charges for up to 180 days.
  • The law has faced criticism for potential misuse and violations of human rights.

5. Delhi most polluted city in world: Swiss survey

Topic: GS3 – air pollution

Context:

  • Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata ranked among the world’s most polluted cities, according to Swiss air purifier company IQAir.

Key findings of the survey:

  • Delhi was ranked the most polluted city globally with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 287, followed by Lahore, Pakistan.
  • Air pollution from firecrackers during Deepavali contributed to the spike in pollutants in Indian cities.
  • Pollution in parts of Delhi was 30 times the safe limits prescribed by the World Health Organization.
  • Air quality in Delhi was expected to be in the “severe” category, affecting both healthy individuals and those with existing health conditions.
  • Climate Trends and Respirer Living Sciences reported that widespread firecracker burning during the festival took away gains made in reducing pollutants due to rain.
  • Experts called for phasing out the firecracker industry to mitigate air pollution.
  • Emergency measures, including car-use restrictions and artificial rain experiments, were previously imposed in Delhi due to hazardous air quality attributed to stubble burning in Punjab.

6. Easing wheat, rising rice

Topic: GS3- Economy

Context:

  • The price of wheat experienced a turbulent ride, reaching a high of $13.64 per bushel in March 2022 before plunging to $5.75 per bushel.
  • The Food Price Index (FPI) also experienced a sharp decline, falling from 159.7 to 120.6 points. Russia has played a major role in the sharp decline in export prices.

Wheat Supply and Government Management

  • The Indian government has been supplying wheat to the public distribution system (PDS) at discounted rates, allowing it to retain a moderate buffer of wheat inventories.
  • The public stocks show that the market is reasonably balanced and that the supply of wheat is being managed in a controlled manner.

Rice Dilemma: Export Restrictions and Market Impact

  • On the other hand, because of its own export limitations, India, a major rice exporter, is seeing a rise in the price of rice globally.
  • The global market has been impacted by price increases brought about by the export ban on white non-basmati rice.
  • Pakistan has profited from these restrictions as well, as it has been able to expand its rice exports.

Implications for Inflation and Market Influence

  • Cereal inflation rates have gone up, impacted by domestic output levels. Although wheat is economically viable for import, its practicality is hampered by political factors.
  • On the other hand, the situation in the edible oils market is different, with most of India’s needs being satisfied by imports.
  • Both imports and the inflation of retail edible oil have decreased as a result of recent price variations.

Conclusion:

  • The trajectory of grain inflation highlights the intricate interplay of political, economic, and local agricultural issues. It is mostly driven by crop production in India.
  • Due to Indian export limitations, the price of rice has surged on the market while wheat prices have fallen dramatically worldwide.
  • This demonstrates the complex interplay between consumer behavior and governmental regulations, which have a substantial impact on how much food costs will rise globally.

7. Tracked while on bail: How GPS anklets work

Topic: GS3- Science and Tech

Context:

  • A prisoner in Jammu and Kashmir was granted bail and given a GPS tracking device to watch his whereabouts, marking a groundbreaking decision in Indian history.

  • Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, indicted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, became the first individual in the country to have a GPS tracker put to his foot as a bail requirement upheld by a special NIA court.

Understanding GPS Trackers

  • GPS trackers are tiny wearables that work similarly to animal monitors in that they can pinpoint the exact location of the wearer, giving law enforcement and security organizations the ability to monitor them in real time.
  • These tamper-proof gadgets, often called GPS anklets and GPS wristbands, are worn on the arm or ankle.

Rationale Behind GPS Tracker Implementation

  • As a condition of Bhat’s bail, the prosecution team of the Jammu & Kashmir Police recommended that Bhat’s movements be closely monitored using a GPS tracker.
  • This measure was suggested as a way to stop terror-related operations and smuggling while also giving observers a chance to keep an eye on contacts and affiliations that might be connected to illicit activity.

Legal Contours and Ethical Concerns

  • Although Bhat’s GPS anklet was approved by the court, human rights advocates are concerned that there are no explicit legislative provisions that permit this practice.
  • Concerns exist over the absence of accepted norms and moral principles in electronic surveillance. GPS tracking proponents contend that it may make it easier to secure bail under the UAPA and increase police confidence in their ability to support bail.
  • On the other hand, detractors claim that using GPS to track people infringes their right to privacy.

Way Forward:

  • The ramifications of this action and the lack of legislative protections pave the way for a more extensive discussion on how to strike a balance when using technical surveillance to protect individual privacy, legal precedent, and public safety.

8. Israel's Ambitious Canal Project

Topic: Prelims, GS2- IR

Context:

  • There are speculations that Israel’s goal of driving Hamas out of the Gaza Strip may open the door to regional dominance and provide a chance to embark on a massive economic undertaking: building a canal through Israel’s Negev Desert that would link the Eastern Mediterranean with the Gulf of Aqaba.
  • The Ben Gurion Canal is a fictitious project that seeks to undermine Egypt’s hegemony over international marine trade.Everything You Need To Know About 14 November 2023 : Daily Current AffairsEverything You Need To Know About 14 November 2023 : Daily Current Affairs

Ben Gurion Canal Project

  • The Ben Gurion Canal Project or Israeli Canal is a proposed canal project through the state of Israel.
  • It would connect the Gulf of Aqaba to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • David Ben Gurion, after whom it would be named, is considered the Founding Father of Israel and was the first Prime Minister of Israel.
  • The canal would rival the Suez Canal.
  • The Suez Canal which runs through Egypt and has had many disturbances in its history, such as the Israeli blockage through the Suez Canal and Straits of Tiran, the Closure of the Suez Canal (1956–1957), Closure of the Suez Canal (1967–1975), and the 2021 Suez Canal obstruction.
  • It would be almost one-third longer than the 193.3 km Suez Canal, at around 292.9 km.

Significance of the Project

  • The Ben Gurion symbolizes a tectonic shift in global trade dynamics.
  • Significantly broader than its counterpart, the Suez Canal, its design intends to usher in a new age of maritime efficiency.
  • Beyond accommodating an increased volume of ships because it would be built on hardier terrain than the sand in the Suez, the canal can be crafted to permit simultaneous two-way traffic, allowing vessels to transit in both directions concurrently.
  • This project isn’t just a logistical enhancement; it’s a profound assertion of Israel’s intention to become the fulcrum of global maritime commerce.
  • Ben Gurion Canal Project, once completed, would transform global maritime dynamics by taking away Egypt’s monopoly over the shortest route between Europe and Asia.
  • By directly contesting the Suez Canal’s longstanding dominance, the stage is set for Western powers to wrestle financial and geopolitical control from Egypt. This nation has been the sentinel of this pivotal passageway for generations. This shift isn’t merely about diversifying revenue streams; it’s an overt strategy to re-orient the balance of power.

9. India, ADB sign $400-mn loan pact to build high-quality urban infra

Topic: GS3- Economy

Context:

  • To support the urban transformation plan, the Central government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have finalized a $400 million policy-based credit agreement.
  • The objectives of this fund are to improve urban infrastructure, streamline service delivery, and support effective governance frameworks. A calculated step toward sustainable urban development has been taken with the signing of the loan agreement for Sub-program 2 of the Sustainable Urban Development and Service Delivery Programme.

Supporting Urban Investment and Reforms

  • The previous Sub-programme 1, which was allocated $350 million, created national policies to promote urban services, laying the foundation. Sub-programme 2, on the other hand, focuses on funding reform initiatives at the state and local government levels in metropolitan areas.
  • Its main objectives are to ensure inclusive, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure, as well as to make cities livable and conducive to economic growth.

Program Objectives and Focus Areas

  • By reducing losses, reusing treated sewage, and revitalizing water bodies, the initiative fosters urban water security and sustains groundwater levels.
  • By promoting systemic and planned urbanization through institutional, governmental, and regulatory reforms, it gives priority to integrated urban planning reforms in order to minimize urban sprawl.
  • It focuses on raising community awareness and urban local bodies’ capacity.

Enhanced Planning Processes and Sustainability

  • The goals of integrated urban planning include environmental sustainability and economic growth in cities.
  • It includes enhanced urban environments, nature-based solutions, and resistance to climate change and disasters.
  • The objective is to augment financial sustainability by means of augmenting income production and enhancing the creditworthiness of cities.

Incentivizing and Mobilizing Financing

  • The initiative will encourage towns to increase their revenue, increase efficiency, and rationalize spending in order to establish their creditworthiness.
  • By using creative financing strategies like municipal bonds, commercial borrowings, sub-sovereign debts, and public-private partnerships, this strategy seeks to help cities close large gaps in their spending in urban infrastructure.

10. Indian PG students in US up 63% in ’22-23, overtake China: Report

Topic: GS2- IR

Context:

  • For the first time in 14 years, India has taken the lead in sending the greatest number of international graduate students to the United States, with Indian students outnumbering Chinese students, who stood at 126,000, in the academic year 2022–2023.
  • Indian students pursuing postgraduate studies in the United States increased by 63% to reach 165,000.

Total Indian Students and Shifting Trends

  • 268,000 Indian students were enrolled in undergraduate, graduate, and optional practical training programs in the US, according to the Open Doors Report, which details international student exchanges.
  • Compared to the previous academic year, this statistic represents a 35% rise.
  • Fifty-two percent of the international student population in the United States is from China and India combined.

Demographic Shift and Statewise Dominance

  • India’s proportion of overseas students in the US has changed significantly over the last ten years, nearly doubling to 25% in 2022–2023 just short of China’s 27%.
  • In 24 states, including Illinois, Texas, and Michigan, which are well-liked by international students, the number of Indian students surpasses that of Chinese students.

Education Preferences

·      Over time, there has been noticeable shift in the educational preferences of Indian students.

  • The percentage of Indian students enrolled in computer science and mathematics programs has increased significantly, from 26% to 41.2% a decade ago.
  • Due to this change, the percentage of engineering disciplines fell from 38.9% in 2010 to 26.9% in 2022–2023.

Impact and Significance

  • Indian students are becoming more prevalent, which is an indication of recovery after a decline prior to the pandemic.
  • They are also a major source of funding for US colleges.
  • While expressing the intention to increase the diversity of students studying in both nations, the US ambassador highlighted the importance of the students’ decision to study in the US.

Overall International Student Contribution

  • Although they only make up 5.6% of all college students in the US, international students including those from China and India are essential to American colleges because they pay greater tuition than domestic students.
  • The top countries that contributed to the enrollment of international students in the US were South Korea, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Nigeria, followed by China and India.

11. PM to launch Rs 24,000-cr scheme for vulnerable tribal groups

Topic: Schemes

Context:

  • On November 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch “Janjatiya Gaurav Divas,” a comprehensive Rs 24,000-crore initiative aimed at the holistic advancement of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG).
  • This effort, which was first introduced during the 2023–24 budget, aims to implement 11 initiatives across nine ministries to help 75 PVTGs.

Context: Political Timing and Tribal Demographics

  • Given the sizeable tribal populations in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and the impending Assembly elections in both states, the timing of the scheme’s introduction is politically significant.
  • As per the 2011 Census, the population of Scheduled Tribe (ST) is 21.1% in MP and 30.6% in Chhattisgarh.

Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups and Scheme Objectives

  • PVTGs are the most vulnerable members of tribal communities; they have unique cultures, live in remote areas, and prefer to engage with other social groups seldom.
  • By providing necessities like roads, telecom connectivity, electricity, clean water, sanitation, increased access to healthcare and education, and sustainable livelihood possibilities, the program seeks to reach these dispersed and isolated habitation regions.
  • In isolated and unreachable areas of 18 states and Union Territories in India, almost 28 lakh people from 75 PVTGs live in 22,544 villages. Some scheme rules will be loosened to accommodate these underserved locations.

Comprehensive Support and Integrated Approach

  • In addition to the 11 interventions, the program encompasses full coverage of ongoing government programs like:
    • PMJAY health insurance scheme,
    • TB Elimination,
    • Sickle Cell Disease Elimination,
    • complete childhood immunization,
    • PM Surakshit Matrutva for free prenatal care,
    • PM Matru Vandana Yojana with cash benefits,
    • PM Poshan,
    • PM Jan Dhan Yojana.

Way Forward:

This project shows the government’s commitment to tribal development and acts as a calculated move ahead of the upcoming elections, in addition to addressing the needs of especially disadvantaged tribal populations.

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