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Daily Current Affairs

16-November-2023

1. Modi launches mission for most backward of the Scheduled Tribes.

Topic: GS1 – Indian Society

Context:

  • PM Narendra Modi launched the ₹24,000-crore PM-PVTG Development Mission and Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra.

More on this news:

  • Aims to reach 75 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in the country, focusing on their development.
  • Objectives of the PM-PVTG Development Mission: Address basic amenity gaps for PVTGs, moving beyond mere classification and counting.
    • Focus on bringing together people and ensuring government scheme saturation in tribal districts.

Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)

         Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) are a group of tribal communities in India that are considered to be the most vulnerable in terms of their socioeconomic status and cultural identity.

Here are some of the key characteristics of PVTGs:

  • Small population size:PVTGs typically have very small population sizes, often numbering in the hundreds or even dozens. This makes them particularly vulnerable to extinction.
  • Isolation:PVTGs often live in remote and inaccessible areas, which can make it difficult for them to access basic services such as education, healthcare, and employment.
  • Lack of access to basic amenities:PVTGs often lack access to basic amenities such as clean water, sanitation, and electricity. This can have a significant impact on their health and well-being.
  • Cultural vulnerability:PVTGs often have unique cultures and traditions that are at risk of disappearing. This is due to a number of factors, including globalization, urbanization, and assimilation into mainstream society.

The Indian government has taken a number of steps to protect PVTGs, including:

  • Reservations:PVTGs are given preferential treatment in terms of education, employment, and access to government services.
  • Tribal Sub-Plan:The Tribal Sub-Plan is a special allocation of funds within the national development plan that is specifically earmarked for PVTGs.
  • Forest Rights Act: The Forest Rights Act of 2006 recognizes the traditional rights of PVTGs to forest land and resources.

Despite these efforts, PVTGs continue to face a number of challenges. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring that their unique cultures and traditions are preserved. Another challenge is ensuring that they have access to the same opportunities as other communities in India.

Question: What are the key characteristics of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in India? What steps has the Indian government taken to protect PVTGs?

2. ‘Coalition politics to take centre stage after LS polls’

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Context:

  • Chandrashekhar Rao’s Projections: Predicts increased prominence of coalition politics post the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and he foresees diminished strength of BJP and Congress.
  • Allegations Against National Parties: Accuses BJP and Congress of practicing vendetta politics, impeding development initiatives.

Coalition politics in India:

Coalition politics is a common feature of Indian politics. In a coalition government, two or more parties come together to form a government, usually because no single party has won a majority of seats in the legislature.

Coalition governments can be stable or unstable, depending on a number of factors, including the size of the parties involved, the ideological compatibility of the parties, and the presence of strong leadership.

Coalition politics can have a number of advantages, including:

  • It can help to ensure that a wider range of views are represented in government.
  • It can help to prevent any one party from becoming too powerful.
  • It can encourage compromise and consensus-building.

However, coalition politics can also have a number of disadvantages, including:

  • It can lead to instability and uncertainty.
  • It can be difficult to agree on policies.
  • It can be difficult to hold the government accountable.

Despite the challenges, coalition politics is likely to remain a feature of Indian politics for the foreseeable future. This is because the country’s diverse population makes it difficult for any single party to win a majority of seats in the legislature.

Question: Critically analyze the impact of coalition politics on governance and stability in India.

3. The price of persistent federal frictions

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Background of Centre-State Disputes:

  • Long history of disputes between the Centre and States regarding economic policies.
  • Recent years marked by increased frequency and intensity, evolving into persistent frictions in the federal system.

Impact on Economic Relations:

  • Economic reforms since 1991 led to some state autonomy, but the dependence on the Centre for revenue receipts limits absolute autonomy.
  • Increasingly fractious Centre-State ties erode the concept of cooperative federalism.

Areas of Conflict:

  • Disputes extend beyond resource sharing to include social sector policies, regulatory institutions, and central agency powers.

Crowding Out States in Investments:

  • Centre’s expanded span of activities results in crowding out States in terms of investments.
  • Infrastructure development, like the PM Gati Shakti initiative, centralized planning limits state flexibility, leading to underinvestment.

Fiscal Competition and Welfare Provisioning:

  • Peculiar fiscal competition emerges between the Centre and States, impacting welfare provisioning.
  • Centre’s enhanced fiscal space creates competition for resources, affecting State revenues.

Inefficiencies and Parallel Policies:

  • Federal abrasions lead to duplications, with Centre and States adopting parallel policies.
  • Example: Pension reforms with some States reverting to old schemes due to trust deficit and fiscal considerations.

Inevitable Interdependence:

  • Implementation of laws and policies requires interdependence between the Centre and States, particularly in concurrent spheres.
  • Acknowledges the inevitability of interdependence in a large, diverse, developing society and emphasizes the need to preserve it.

4. Proposed criminal code gives more immunity to defence personnel

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Introduction of Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) Bill, 2023:

  • Expected to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
  • Provides additional immunity to armed forces personnel for acts performed in the line of duty.

Key Changes in the Proposed Law:

  • Union Home Secretary highlighted 46 significant changes in the proposed law.
  • Focus on safeguarding armed forces personnel from case registration without consent from the Central or State Government.

Enhanced Protection Beyond AFSPA:

  • Proposed provision supplements the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
  • AFSPA grants broad powers to armed forces in “disturbed areas,” including arrest, search without a warrant, and immunity from prosecution without Central government’s sanction.

Denial of Prosecution Sanction Example:

  • Defence Ministry denied prosecution sanction for 30 Army personnel accused of killing coal miners in Nagaland.
  • Sanction denial based on the argument of “mistaken identity.”

Supremacy of Special Laws:

  • The Home Secretary emphasizes that special laws will supersede general criminal procedures.
  • Examples include the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).
  • The BNSS modernizes the court structure, eliminating British-era designations like “Metropolitan Magistrate” and “Metropolitan Area.”

Empowerment of Union Government:

  • Empowers the Union government to appoint Public Prosecutors for trial, appeal, and other proceedings in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

Promotion of Gender Parity:

  • BNSS promotes gender parity by allowing the service of summons on any adult family member, including women, in the absence of the person to be summoned.

5. ‘Greenhouse gases hit record high in 2022’

Topic: GS3 – climate change

  • Greenhouse Gas Concentrations (2022): UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports new record highs in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere in 2022.
  • Main Greenhouse Gases: Records broken for the three main greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.
  • Impact on Climate: Increased levels of heat-trapping gases are expected to result in further temperature increases, more extreme weather, and higher sea levels.
  • WMO’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin: WMO’s 19th annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin highlights the concerning trend of rising greenhouse gas concentrations.
  • Paris Agreement Targets: 2015 Paris Agreement aimed to cap global warming at “well below” 2o C above the 1850-1900 average and preferably limit it to 1.5o C.
  • Global Mean Temperature (2022): Global mean temperature in 2022 was 1.15o C above the 1850-1900 average.
  • Future Outlook: Despite warnings and climate conferences, WMO chief Petteri Taalas notes the world is still heading in the wrong direction. It is almost certain that 2023 will be the warmest year on record.

6. Gold drives trade deficit to new high

Topic: GS3 – Indian economy.

Goods Exports (October 2023):

  • India’s goods exports grew by 6.2% in October 2023, reaching $33.6 billion.
  • This marks the second growth in goods exports during the fiscal year.

Goods Imports (October 2023):

  • Imports surged to a record high of $65.03 billion, indicating a 12.3% increase compared to the previous year.
  • Gold imports saw a significant rise of 95.4%, reaching $7.2 billion.
  • Trade Deficit (October 2023):
    • The monthly goods trade deficit widened to an all-time high of $31.46 billion.
    • This surpasses the previous record of $29.23 billion in September 2022.

Merchandise Exports (April-October 2023):

  • Merchandise exports for the period between April and October 2023 stand at nearly $245 billion.
  • This figure is 7% below the corresponding period in the previous year.

Factors Influencing Imports:

  • Apart from gold, other contributors to the record import bill include oil, electronics, gems and jewellery.
  • Trade analysts note a broad-based increase in imports, with various sectors contributing to the record-high import figures.
  • Factors such as a rise in crude oil prices, festive season demand for gold, and increased imports in electronics and gems and jewellery are identified.

Commerce Secretary’s Statement:

  • Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal mentioned that the green shoots observed in August are stabilizing, citing the 6.2% growth in goods exports in October.

Overall Trade Scenario:

  • Despite the growth in exports, the widening trade deficit is primarily driven by the surge in imports, which may normalize in the coming months.

7. APEC

Topic: GS2- IR

Context:

  • Beginning on November 11 in San Francisco, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organization held its Leaders’ Week, which will conclude on Friday with the Economic Leaders’ Retreat.
  • The much-awaited face-to-face meeting—the first between US President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping in a year was a major highlight.

APEC Establishment and Membership:

  • APEC is a regional economic forum that was founded in 1989 with the goal of utilizing the Asia-Pacific region’s increasing interdependence to promote economic integration and increased prosperity.
  • The 21 members, known as “economies,” concentrate on matters related to commerce and the economy.
  • Notably, Taiwan and Hong Kong take part as separate entities, which China disputes.

APEC Member Economies:

  • The Asia-Pacific region comprises 21 economies that are members of APEC:
    • Australia,
    • Brunei,
    • New Zealand,
    • Papua New Guinea,
    • Hong Kong,
    • the Philippines,
    • Indonesia,
    • Malaysia,
    • Vietnam,
    • Singapore,
    • Thailand,
    • Chinese Taipei (Taiwan),
    • China,
    • Japan,
    • South Korea,
    • Russia,
    • Canada,
    • the United States,
    • Mexico,
    • Peru,

APEC’s Core Objectives:

  • The main goals of APEC, which were set during the organization’s first five years, are economic liberalization, reduced trade barriers, and free trade.
  • The establishment of a liberalized free trade area encircling the Pacific Rim is the primary objective of APEC, as stated in the Seoul Declaration of 1991.
  • This aim underscores the organization’s dedication to promoting regional economic integration.

India’s Aspiration to Join APEC:

  • India announced its intention to join APEC in writing in 1991.
  • In 2016, Nirmala Sitharaman, the Union Minister for Commerce and Industry at the time, explained the reasoning behind this request, citing India’s geographic location, the size of its economy, and the volume of trade interactions it has with the Asia-Pacific area as the main points of reference.

Conclusion

  • Key economies came together for the ongoing APEC Leaders’ Week in San Francisco, which is focused on promoting free trade, economic liberalization, and regional economic integration.
  • The historic meeting between Presidents Xi and Biden gives the events a noteworthy diplomatic component.
  • Furthermore, India’s long-standing desire to become a member of APEC is a reflection of its strategic economic goals in the Asia-Pacific area.

8. "Unraveling the Tunnel Tragedy: Causes, Methods, and Safeguarding Strategies in Construction"

Topic: GS3- Disaster Management

Context:

  • Questions concerning possible reasons and preventive measures are raised by the collapse of an under-construction tunnel on the Yamunotri National Highway in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district, trapping 40 workers.

Causes and Possible Preventions

  • Situated 200-300 meters from the tunnel’s entrance, the collapsed section may have been caused by a hidden loose rock patch that was weak or cracked.
  • Water seeping through a concealed loose piece and weakening the rock through erosion is another possible reason.
  • Although these are broad guidelines, a thorough examination is still needed to determine the precise causes.

Tunnel Excavation Methods: Drill and Blast vs. Tunnel-Boring Machines (TBMs)

  • Tunnel-boring machines (TBMs) and the drill and blast method (DBM) are the two main techniques used in tunnel excavation.
  • In order to disintegrate the rock, DBM involves boring holes in it and setting off explosives.
  • Although they cost more, TBMs are safer because they use a rotating head to bore through the rock and use precast concrete segments to support the tunnel.
  • India imports TBMs at a maximum cost of Rs 200 crore apiece.
  • The decision between these techniques varies depending on the terrain, as TBMs are not recommended for very tall mountains because of the possibility of rock explosion.

Himalayan Region and Tunneling Challenges

  • In terms of geology, the Himalayas are relatively new, having developed between 40 and 50 million years ago and continuing to grow as a result of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates colliding.
  • There are sections of stable rock in the Himalayas, however other rock portions may be too brittle for digging.
  • Small problems were dealt with quickly even though the project was being carried out in the Himalayan region, showing that there are technological solutions available for fragile or cracked rock.
  • It is argued that, when done correctly, tunnel construction technology which has been around for more than 200 years does not intrinsically threaten the ecology of hills or mountains.

Key Aspects of Building a Stable Tunnel

  • An in-depth examination of the rock that the tunnel is intended to pass through is essential to building a stable tunnel.
  • To do this, seismic refraction waves are sent through the rock to detect any solid or vulnerable areas. To evaluate the mineral composition, grain size, and other mechanical properties of the rock, engineers in India remove core samples and perform petrographic analyses.
  • These studies aid in ascertaining if the rock can support the weight of the overburden when tunnels are being created.
  • Even after support and excavation, it is crucial to keep an ongoing eye on the behavior of the rock using tools like stress and deformation meters.

Support Systems and Independent Geologist Assessment

  • Tunnel stability is ensured in large part by testing the effectiveness of support systems.
  • To stop rock falls, support systems are used such as shotcrete, rock bolts, steel ribs or beams, and tunnel pipe umbrellas.
  • For the purpose of examining and evaluating potential failures, a visit to the tunnel by an impartial specialized geologist is essential.
  • Geologists also calculate the rock’s stand-up time, or how long it can stay stable without assistance, and they offer support throughout this period.
  • Notably, considering India’s existing simultaneous design and building methods, the necessity of devoting more time to research prior to beginning construction is imporatant.

9. Race Cannot Be Used to Predict Heart Disease, US Scientists Say

Topic: GS2- Health

Context:

  • In order to determine a patient’s risk of heart attack or stroke, doctors typically look at a number of important patient variables, including age, sex, race, smoking status, blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.
  • But a big change is happening now that the American Heart Association (AHA) has decided to take race out of its popular cardiac-risk algorithm.

The Problem with Race as a Biological Risk Factor:

  • The AHA made this judgment after realizing that race identity is not a biological risk factor in and of itself, unlike sex or age.
  • The algorithm’s scientists realized that some social situations, genetic predispositions, or environmental exposures that may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease could be proxied by race.
  • They did, however, come to the conclusion that it is improper to include race directly in clinical instruments for medical decision-making.

Health Equity Concerns and Racial Bias in Healthcare:

  • The updated cardiac-risk algorithm is in line with the growing concerns in the US healthcare system regarding racial bias and health equity.
  • This action is in line with a larger medical trend that removes race from consideration when developing different clinical algorithms.
  • Ensuring impartial and equitable healthcare practices is the goal.

Addressing Medical Decision-Making:

  • The American Heart Association (AHA) stated in a statement published in the journal Circulation that a person’s race should not be a deciding factor in whether or not they receive therap
  • The statement’s chair, Dr. Sadiya Khan, a preventive cardiologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, argues that racial discrimination should no longer be a factor in medical decisions.

Toward Inclusive Clinical Algorithms:

  • A larger push in the medical profession to develop more inclusive clinical algorithms is reflected in the decision to eliminate race from the cardiac-risk algorithm.
  • The objective is to create instruments that, instead of sustaining racial biases, give priority to biologically relevant patient traits.

Introduction of the New Algorithm – PREVENT:

  • The PREVENT algorithm, the AHA’s latest algorithm, is still being developed. Without taking race into account, the goal of this online calculator is to provide a more realistic evaluation of cardiac risk.
  • The creation of PREVENT challenges the use of race as a deciding factor in medical decision-making and represents a commitment to developing equitable and fair healthcare practices.

10. Navy Chief flags fragile situation in South China Sea

Topic: GS3- Internal Security

Context:

  • Speaking at the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD), Admiral R. Hari Kumar voiced concerns about the precarious security situation in the South China Sea.
  • He stressed that there is a real and present risk to maintaining order at sea when established codes of conduct or confidence-building measures are broken.
  • Since the Indo-Pacific region is the most militarized in the world, there is a greater chance that competitiveness will turn into conflict as a result of the rising deployment of multinational forces.

Contestation of Global Commons in the Indo-Pacific:

  • Admiral Kumar emphasized the concern that the presence of over fifty warships from extra-regional forces in the Indian Ocean Region could turn the region’s “global commons” into contested seas.
  • This fear is heightened by varying interpretations of international law, which could result in the transition from global commons to contested seas.

Consequences of Contestation at Sea:

  • With reference to previous events like the closure of the Suez Canal and the interruption of Black Sea commercial lanes, Admiral Kumar made the point that maritime conflict can have a major negative impact on security.
  • At sea, trade and connection may be hindered, which could impact the stability of the region as a whole.

Indian Navy Monitoring Chinese Warships:

  • Government sources disclosed that the Indian Navy is closely observing the movements of Chinese warships and submarines taking part in a naval drill in the Arabian Sea with Pakistan.
  • A thorough understanding of the marine domain guarantees alertness regarding operations in the Indian Ocean Region that are in line with the interests of national security.

11. The numbers and the politics of PM’s PVTG push

Topic: GS1- Society

Context:

  • On “Janjatiya Gaurav Divas,” in Jharkhand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the commencement of the PM Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) Development Mission.
  • Announced in the 2023–24 Budget, this program targets 75 identified tribal tribes in India with the goal of improving the socioeconomic circumstances of PVTGs.

Mission Implementation and Interventions:

  • Eleven interventions, including well-known programs like the PM Gram Sadak Yojana, PM Gramin Awas Yojana, and Jal Jeevan Mission, will be carried out by nine ministries as part of the PVTG mission.
  • With an expenditure of Rs 24,000 crore, the mission surpasses funding for other important programs in the 2023–24 Budget to become the largest aimed at the indigenous group.

Significance of PVTGs and Recognition:

  • PVTGs are defined by a subsistence level of economy, a pre-agriculture level of technology, a static or declining population, and extremely low literacy.
  • The Dhebar Commission’s 1961 conclusions served as the inspiration for the notion of PVTGs.
  • Presently, there are 75 PVTGs in India, dispersed over 18 states and union territories.
  • The most populous state is Odisha, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

PVTGs in Election-Bound States:

  • There are PVTG populations in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Telangana (along with Andhra Pradesh), among the states that are scheduled to have assembly elections.
  • The major communities in Madhya Pradesh are the Bharia and Baigas, although Chhattisgarh has given the Baigas rights to their habitat before the elections.
  • The Saharia community makes up the PVTG population in Rajasthan, while the Kondasavaras and Kondareddis are the two main PVTG groups in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Political Outreach and Tribal Votes:

  • In its numerous attempts to reach out to the tribal community, the BJP has honored tribal leaders and chosen women from the tribe, such as Droupadi Murmu, to be the first tribal woman president.
  • Elections are largely influenced by tribal voters, and the BJP seeks to win their support with programs like the PVTG Development Mission.
  • Scheduled Tribe (ST) seats were won by the BJP in a sizable number in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019.

Focus on ST Seats and Electoral Dynamics:

  • There are a lot of ST seats in states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan, which affects the electoral dynamics.
  • Attempts have been made to increase the BJP’s appeal to tribal voters as a result of its inconsistent performance in ST seats throughout elections.
  • In the lead-up to the next election, the PVTG Development Mission’s debut is in line with the electoral plan to interact with tribal people.

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