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Daily Current Affairs

19-October-2023

1. The measure of the working woman.

Topic: GS3 – gender equality

Context:

  • India’s goal of becoming a $5 trillion economy requires the inclusion of women in the workforce.

Hurdles to women empowerment:

  • Unpaid care work, primarily done by women, is not adequately recognized or valued in economic terms.
  • Women face the “double burden” of working outside the home while still managing household responsibilities.
  • Women’s unpaid work contributes significantly to the GDP, yet it remains invisible in official statistics.
  • Governments should change how they value and account for women’s labor in GDP calculations and policies.
  • Supporting women working outside the home is essential, especially in low-income families.
  • Lack of support for working women is not accurately reflected in data due to irregular work patterns.
  • Childcare services like creches can enable women to work full-time and need expansion to reach urban areas.
  • India’s women’s labor force participation rate is lower compared to other countries in the region, necessitating action to dispel myths and provide adequate support for women in the workforce.

2. The Aboriginal referendum in Australia

Topic: GS2 – polity

Context:

  • The referendum on establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament in Australia did not succeed, with around 60% voting “no” and 40% voting “”
  • The Voice proposal aimed to recognize Indigenous peoples as the First Peoples of Australia within the Constitution and establish an advisory body for the national parliament and government.

What is referendum?

  • Referendums are a form of direct democracy.
  • They are used to seek the public’s approval or disapproval on specific matters.
  • Common referendum topics include constitutional amendments, changes to laws, or major policy decisions.
  • Referendums can be binding, meaning the government must implement the result, or non-binding, serving as a public opinion poll.
  • The process typically involves a clear, neutral, and informed presentation of the issue to voters.

Other forms of direct democracy:

  • Initiative:An initiative is a process by which citizens can propose and enact new laws or policies without the involvement of the government. Initiatives are typically launched by collecting a certain number of signatures from registered voters.
  • Recall:Recall is a process by which citizens can remove an elected official from office before the end of their term. Recall elections are typically triggered by collecting a certain number of signatures from registered voters.

3. Can refer aspects of PMLA verdict to Constitution Bench, if need be: SC

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity

Context:

  • A three-judge Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul indicated the possibility of referring aspects of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to a Constitution Bench.

More on this news:

  • The Special Bench was hearing petitions challenging a July 2022 Supreme Court judgment that upheld core amendments to the PMLA, which granted extensive powers to the Enforcement Directorate and shifted the burden of proof onto the accused in money laundering cases.
  • The judgment was praised as a means to combat money laundering but led to discontent and more petitions being filed.
  • The Special Bench clarified it didn’t want a comprehensive reconsideration but would review specific issues from the July 2022 judgment. If necessary, they might refer those issues to a larger Bench.

Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA):

  • The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is an Indian law enacted in 2002.
  • It is designed to prevent money laundering and provide for confiscation of property derived from money laundering.
  • The law defines money laundering offenses and prescribes penalties for them.
  • One of the significant features of the PMLA is the power it grants to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to investigate money laundering cases.
  • Amendments to the PMLA have given extensive powers to the ED and shifted the burden of proving innocence onto the accused.
  • The law has been praised as a means to combat money laundering and related financial crimes.
  • It has also faced criticism and legal challenges related to its impact on personal liberty and legal procedures.
  • The Supreme Court of India upheld core amendments to the PMLA in a July 2022 judgment, which has sparked further legal challenges and debates.

4. Centre notifies appointment of 17 judges across 8 HCs

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity

Context:

  • The Indian government has appointed 17 judges in eight High Courts.
  • Additionally, 16 judges have been transferred to different High Courts.
  • The appointments and transfers come after the Supreme Court expressed displeasure over delays in such processes.
  • Justice M.V. Muralidharan, who ordered the consideration of including the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list, was transferred from the Manipur High Court to the Calcutta High Court.

Qualification for high court judge in India:

  • He must be a citizen of India.
  • He must have held a judicial office in the territory of India for not less than 10 years.
  • He must be an advocate of the Supreme Court or of a High Court for not less than 10 years.

Procedure for Selection:

  • The Chief Justice of India (CJI) and two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court constitute a Collegium that recommends candidates for appointment as High Court Judges.
  • The Collegium considers candidates from a variety of sources, including the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned, the state government, and the bar council.
  • The Collegium recommends candidates to the President of India, who appoints them as High Court Judges after consultation with the Chief Minister of the state concerned.

Question: Discuss the challenges to the selection process of High Court Judges in India and suggest reforms to make it more transparent and accountable.

5. India likely to sign deal with U.S. for 31 MQ-9B drones by February 2024

Topic: GS3 – defence sector

Context:

  • A deal for the procurement of 31 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from the U.S. is expected to be concluded by February 2024.

Additional information about the news:

  • Deliveries of the UAVs will begin in February 2027, three years after the contract signing.
  • The UAVs are being procured through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.
  • The deal includes 15 Sea Guardians for the Navy and eight Sky Guardians each for the Army and the Air Force.
  • UAV maker General Atomics (GA) is set to establish a global maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility in India, likely in Bengaluru.

6. Ayodhya Ram temple trust receives FCRA licence to accept foreign donations

Topic: GS2 – governance

Context:

  • The Ayodhya Ram temple trust, Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra, has obtained a licence to accept foreign donations under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
  • The trust has already collected ₹3,500 crore in donations from people across India.

Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) License:

  • The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) is an Indian law that regulates foreign contributions to NGOs, associations, and individuals.
  • The FCRA License allows organizations or individuals to receive foreign contributions in compliance with the law.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, is responsible for allotting FCRA licenses.
  • Obtaining an FCRA license is necessary for accepting foreign donations legally and transparently in India.

Issues with Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA):

  • Restrictive regulations: The FCRA has faced criticism for its stringent regulations, making it difficult for NGOs and civil society organizations to receive foreign funding.
  • Arbitrary cancellations: The government has canceled FCRA licenses of several organizations without clear reasons, leading to concerns about transparency and accountability.
  • Chilling effect on free speech: Critics argue that the FCRA is used to suppress dissent and curtail the freedom of expression, particularly among organizations critical of government policies.
  • Compliance challenges: NGOs and nonprofits often struggle to meet the complex reporting and compliance requirements under the FCRA, leading to legal complications.
  • Selective enforcement: Critics claim that the FCRA is selectively enforced, targeting certain organizations and individuals based on political considerations.
  • Impact on humanitarian work: Humanitarian and charitable organizations have faced challenges in receiving foreign aid for critical projects due to FCRA restrictions.

Way forward:

  • Streamline regulations: Reform the FCRA to simplify regulations, reduce bureaucratic hurdles, and improve transparency in foreign funding.
  • Transparent process: Ensure that FCRA license cancellations and approvals are based on clear, non-arbitrary criteria, and provide avenues for appeals.
  • Protect freedom of speech: Amend the FCRA to prevent its misuse as a tool to suppress dissent and curtail free speech.
  • Capacity building: Provide training and support to NGOs and nonprofits to help them comply with FCRA requirements effectively.
  • Fair enforcement: Ensure equal and unbiased enforcement of the FCRA, avoiding selective targeting of organizations based on political considerations.
  • Public consultation: Engage with civil society, experts, and stakeholders to gather input for comprehensive FCRA reform.
  • Accountability and oversight: Implement mechanisms to ensure that foreign contributions are used for their intended purposes and subject to appropriate oversight.

Question: In recent years, the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) has faced significant scrutiny and criticism. Discuss the key issues associated with the FCRA and suggest measures for reform to ensure transparent and effective regulation.

7. Centre raises MSP for Rabi crops, farmers unhappy

Topic: GS3 – agriculture sector

Context:

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has increased the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for all Rabi crops for the financial year 2024-25.
  • The MSP for wheat, a major Rabi crop, has been increased by ₹150 per quintal, making the new price ₹2,275.
  • Farmers’ organizations have criticized the increase as “meagre” and stated that it does not match the rise in input costs.

What is Minimum Support Prices (MSP):

  • Minimum Support Prices (MSP) are the price levels at which the government offers to purchase agricultural produce from farmers.
  • The aim of MSP is to provide a guaranteed price floor for farmers’ crops, ensuring them a minimum income for their produce and protecting them from market price fluctuations and price crashes.
  • It serves as a safety net for farmers, encouraging agricultural production and ensuring food security. 

Issues with MSP regime in India:

  • Distortions in cropping patterns: MSP primarily focuses on a few crops, leading to overproduction of those crops and neglect of others, causing imbalance in cropping patterns.
  • Regional variations: MSP benefits are not uniformly distributed across regions, creating disparities in income and development.
  • Inadequate benefits to small and marginal farmers: Small-scale farmers often face challenges in accessing MSP benefits due to limited resources and lack of market integration.
  • Fiscal burden: Sustaining high MSPs puts pressure on government finances, affecting budget allocations for other essential sectors.
  • Inequities in pricing: Discrepancies in MSP rates for different crops can lead to unfair competition and income inequalities among farmers.
  • Impact on market competitiveness: High MSPs can hinder the competitiveness of Indian products in international markets, affecting exports.
  • Food grain stock management: Procuring surplus food grains can lead to inefficient management of stocks, causing storage issues and food wastage.
  • Environmental concerns: MSP-centric farming may neglect sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural practices, contributing to environmental degradation.
  • Lack of diversification: Focusing on a few crops can hinder crop diversification, which is essential for agricultural sustainability

Way forward:

  • Diversification of MSP crops: Expand MSP coverage to include a wider variety of crops, promoting crop diversification and balanced cropping patterns.
  • Enhanced procurement infrastructure: Invest in strengthening procurement mechanisms and storage facilities to ensure that MSP benefits reach a broader range of farmers.
  • Market integration: Develop initiatives to link farmers directly to markets, reducing dependency on MSP as the primary income source.
  • Regional equity: Ensure equitable distribution of MSP benefits across regions, addressing disparities in agricultural development.
  • Eco-friendly practices: Promote sustainable and environment-friendly farming techniques in MSP-supported crops.
  • Export promotion: Develop strategies to maintain price competitiveness in international markets while continuing MSP support domestically.
  • Efficient food grain management: Streamline food grain stock management to prevent wastage and improve storage infrastructure.
  • Technological solutions: Utilize technology for transparent and efficient MSP transactions and payments.

Question:  Examine the role of Minimum Support Prices (MSP) in the context of India’s agricultural sector. Provide insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the current MSP system and suggest measures for its enhancement.”

8. How quantum algorithms solve problems that classical computers can’t.

Topic: GS3 – Science and technology

Quantum Algorithms

  • Quantum algorithms are a sequence of logically connected mathematical steps designed to solve problems.
  • They differ from classical algorithms in that they require quantum gates for implementation.
  • Quantum algorithms utilize qubits, which can exist in superposition, making them more efficient for certain tasks.

Types of Quantum Algorithms

  • Shor’s Algorithm: Quantum algorithm by Peter Shor for factoring large numbers, significantly more efficient than classical methods, posing a threat to classical cryptography.
  • Quantum Search Algorithm: Developed by Lov Grover, efficiently finds numerical patterns in large datasets, requiring significantly fewer steps as dataset size increases.
  • Deutsch-Jozsa Algorithm: Efficiently distinguishes between constant and balanced relations in two sets, providing a powerful demonstration of quantum computing’s problem-solving capabilities.

Future of Quantum Algorithms

  • Quantum algorithms hold the potential to tackle complex problems in optimization, drug design, and pattern search.
  • Reliable, large-scale quantum devices are essential for realizing the full potential of quantum algorithms.
  • Research in quantum algorithms is interdisciplinary and continually evolving, offering opportunities for significant contributions.

Conclusion

Quantum algorithms, powered by qubits and superposition, demonstrate superior efficiency in solving certain problems, posing both challenges and opportunities for various fields.

Multiple-choice question:

Which quantum algorithm is known for its significant efficiency in factoring large numbers, posing a potential threat to classical cryptography? 

Select the correct option from the following:

  1. Grover’s Algorithm
  2. Deutsch-Jozsa Algorithm
  3. Shor’s Algorithm
  4. Quantum Search Algorithm

Answer:  Option C – Shor’s Algorithm.

Explanation:

  • Shor’s Algorithm is a quantum algorithm developed by Peter Shor, known for its remarkable efficiency in factoring large numbers.
  • This algorithm poses a potential threat to classical cryptography because it can factorize numbers significantly faster than classical algorithms, which depend on the difficulty of factoring large integers to secure data.
  • This quantum algorithm has the potential to break classical encryption methods, emphasizing the importance of developing quantum-resistant encryption techniques.

9. WHAT CAUSED LARGEST ‘MARSQUAKE’?

Topic: GS3- Science and Tech

Context:

  • The strongest earthquake yet found on Mars, measuring 4.7 in magnitude, was discovered on May 4, 2022, by NASA’s InSight lander.
  • For Mars, a planet lacking plate tectonics like Earth, this magnitude may seem small by Earth standards, but it is substantial.

Initial Concerns About Impact by Meteorite:

  • Since Mars lacks the geological processes that create earthquakes on Earth, scientists first hypothesized that this marsquake may have been caused by a meteorite impact.
  • A search for an impact crater, however, turned up nothing.

Discovery of Tectonic Activity:

  • Scientists came to the conclusion that this marsquake was triggered by tectonic activity within the planet’s interior because there was no impact crater.
  • This information helped to clarify the causes of the seismic activity on Mars.

Significance of the Findings:

  • The study’s conclusions are thought to be important for comprehending Martian seismic activity and the planet’s tectonic processes.
  • This finding implies that despite the absence of active plate tectonics on Mars, faults on the planet can in fact host large marsquakes.

Mar’s Geologic Activity

  • Mars still shows geologic activity even though it doesn’t have active plate tectonics as Earth does.
  • There is motion within the planet’s single, solid crust as it cools and gradually contracts.
  • As seen in this instance, this motion has the potential to cause marsquakes.

Location and Origin of the Marsquake:

  • About 2,000 kilometers southeast of the position of InSight, in the Al-Qahira Vallis region of the southern hemisphere of Mars, was the epicenter of the 4.7 magnitude marsquake.
  • According to scientists it may have started a few dozen kilometers underneath the surface of the planet.

Unusual origin of the Marsquake:

  • Scientists were perplexed by this specific marsquake because, unlike the majority of earlier marsquakes connected to the Cerberus Fossae region, no observable surface features suggested ongoing tectonic processes that could have caused such a severe quake.

Conclusion:

  • This finding provides information about the geologic activity of Mars and its capacity to produce large-scale seismic events despite the absence of plate tectonics.

10. The Vizhinjam International Seaport Project in Kerala

Topic: Prelims, Governance

Project Overview:

  • India’s first port for deep-water transshipment is the Vizhinjam International Seaport.
  • It is close to Thiruvananthapuram and has a depth of over 18 meters that can be increased to 20 meters, making it suitable for large ships and mother ships.
  • Adani Ports and SEZ Private Limited is carrying out the project, which is anticipated to cost Rs 7,600 crore.
  • Two of the project’s major stakeholders are the state government and the Adani Group.
  • By building a deep-water transshipment port nearer to the international shipping route, the project hopes to lessen the demand for transshipment at foreign ports like Colombo, Singapore, and Klang.

Project Delays and Challenges:

  • Since it was first conceived in 2015, the project has experienced substantial delays.
  • The Adani Group, which had pledged to finish the project in a thousand days, failed a number of deadlines.
  • The main causes of the delays were difficulties with the construction of a breakwater, as well as events like the 2017 Ockhi cyclone, the Covid-19 pandemic, a severe lack of granite stones for the breakwater, and opposition from fisherman.

Importance of Transshipment ports:

  • India does not currently have a land-side mega-port that can accommodate extremely huge container ships.
  • As a result, almost 75% of the cargo that India transships is handled in foreign ports in nations like Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Malaysia.
  • Vizhinjam is one of the developing transshipment ports that can provide advantages including currency savings, foreign direct investment, infrastructure development for logistics, job creation, and enhanced revenue.

Way Forward:

  • India’s marine infrastructure and trade logistics will benefit from the completion of the Vizhinjam International Seaport, which aims to lessen India’s dependency on foreign ports for transshipment and improve India’s standing in the world shipping market.

11.Severe Drought in the Amazon Rainforest

Topic: GS3 Environment

Context:

  • There is a significant water deficit due to the catastrophic drought that is currently harming the Amazon rainforest and its rivers.
  • Near the Brazilian city of Manaus, the Rio Negro, one of the biggest rivers in the world, has reached a record-low level of 13.59 meters.

Impact on indigenous communities:

  • In the settlements of Indigenous populations, who depend on these rivers for their livelihoods, the drought has resulted in a shortage of water, food, and medicine.
  • Water supplies in some places have been contaminated by dead fish and river dolphins, called boto.
  • A significant hydropower dam’s operations have been hampered by the shortage of water, leaving tens of thousands of people trapped in far-flung settlements.

Environmental Impact:

  • Due to the drought, there have been a considerable number more fire outbreaks in the rainforest, increasing its vulnerability to wildfires.
  • The region experienced 2,700 wildfires in October, the most for a single month since statistics have been kept 25 years ago.
  • Residents’ health in Manaus has been impacted by the dangerous air quality brought on by the wildfire smoke.

Causes of the drought:

  • El Nino’s advent and exceptionally warm water temperatures in the northern tropical Atlantic Ocean are two simultaneous natural occurrences that have hampered cloud formation and decreased rainfall.
  • Extreme heat is brought on by El Nio, which causes abnormal warming of the surface waters of the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • The Atlantic Ocean’s warm waters raise warm air into the atmosphere, which prevents clouds from forming and reduces rainfall.

Long Term Impact:

  • According to studies, the Amazon will likely face longer and more frequent droughts as a result of rising global temperatures.
  • According to a study, the Amazon might experience severe droughts nine out of every ten years by 2060 if present fossil fuel consumption continues.
  • According to a different study, the Amazon is getting worse at recovering from protracted droughts and is on the verge of becoming a drier savanna, which would release a lot of carbon-stored energy and exacerbate global warming.

Way Forward:

  • To conserve the Amazon, experts stress the urgent need to stop deforestation, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and reforest damaged areas.
  • Since the Amazon plays a critical role in regulating the climate and storing carbon, the fate of the Amazon has global consequences and its destruction would have an effect on people everywhere.

12. SC to hear pleas seeking relook at its PMLA verdict

Topic: GS2-Polity

Context:

  • Despite vehement objections from the Centre and Enforcement Directorate regarding procedure, the Supreme Court decided to go ahead with the hearing of a batch of pleas seeking reconsideration of its July 2022 judgment upholding provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, and the probe agency’s powers under it.

About PMLA

  • The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 was passed by the Indian government to combat money laundering and establish a system for seizing assets obtained through it. The PMLA went into force on July 1st, 2005.
  • As a result of a global commitment to address the problem of money laundering, which affects financial institutions all over the world and has international repercussions, the PMLA was approved by the Parliament.
  • According to the Act, anyone found guilty of money laundering faces a prison sentence ranging from 3 to 7 years; however, the maximum sentence is 10 years.
  • Property deemed to be “proceeds of crime” may be impounded for 180 days by the Director or an officer having the Director’s authority above the Deputy Director ranks.
  • The central government has designated the Adjudicating Authority to exercise the jurisdiction, powers, and authority granted under the PMLA.
  • The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908’s rules on procedure will not apply to the adjudicating authority. However, it will be bound by the other PMLA rules and guided by natural justice principles.
  • A person who is accused of money laundering must demonstrate that the claimed proceeds of crime are legitimate assets.
  • An appellate tribunal is a group that the Union Government appoints. It has the authority to consider appeals from the Adjudicating Authority’s and any other Act-related authority’s decisions.

Objectives:

  • the prevention and controlling of money laundering.
  • to seize and forfeit any assets acquired by money laundering.
  • to address any additional money laundering-related issues in India.

13. Redeployment of Troops Along India-China Border for Winter Posture

Topic: GS3 Internal Security

Context:

  • Due to the fact that recent military negotiations between India and China have not made any significant headway, the Indian Army is preparing for its fourth consecutive winter in eastern Ladakh.
  • As part of the Army’s winter posture, troops will be repositioned along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), unit numbers in some locations may be reduced, and sufficient reserves will be kept in depth areas.

Key elements of the winter posture:

  • In the upcoming months, the Army’s winter posture will include restricted patrolling when required, strong border dominance employing cutting-edge surveillance equipment, and winter air surveillance operations using helicopters.
  • Due to the greater use of modern technology, improved logistics, and higher airlift capacity, plans are being made to reevaluate the total number of troops deployed.

Deployment Adjustment and Surveillance:

  • The plans for redeployment will involve a limited reduction in formations that have been in training as well as the relocation of personnel at smaller satellite posts closer to company positions.
  • The expanded use of surveillance tools like cameras, drones, and satellites eliminates the need for more soldiers while enabling thorough monitoring.

Upcoming military talks:

  • During the winter, there will likely be another round of military negotiations, with local commanders from both sides keeping open lines of communication to avoid any mishaps.
  • Prior negotiations centered on troop withdrawal along the LAC and de-escalation in the Ladakh region, but they were not put into action.
  • Friction points like Depsang Plains and Demchok have not been addressed, while some have received some limited resolution.
  • Currently, there are 50,000–60,000 soldiers stationed on either side of the India–China border.

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