20 March 2024 : Daily Current Affairs

Daily Current Affairs

20-March -2024- Top News of the Day

1. Delhi Tops World Air Quality Report Again: Alarming PM2.5 Levels Pose Health Risks

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the severity of air pollution in Delhi which sheds light on one of India’s most pressing environmental challenges.

  • According to the World Air Quality Report for 2023, Delhi retained its dubious distinction as the most polluted capital city globally and the third most polluted city in India, trailing behind Begusarai and Guwahati in terms of PM2.5 levels.
  • The report, compiled by IQ Air, a Swiss air quality technology company, utilizes data from various monitoring stations across the world, including those operated by government agencies, educational institutions, and non-profits.

More about the news:

Dismal PM2.5 Levels in Delhi:

  • In 2023, Delhi recorded an alarming annual average PM2.5 level of 92.7 µg/m3, surpassing 114 other capital cities worldwide.
  • This grim statistic underscores the severity of Delhi’s air pollution crisis, with Dhaka in Bangladesh following closely behind with a PM2.5 level of 80.2 µg/m3.
  • The World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines suggest that annual average PM2.5 levels should not exceed 5 µg/m3, indicating the magnitude of Delhi’s pollution problem.

Comparative Analysis within India:

  • Despite global notoriety, Delhi faced stiffer competition domestically as Begusarai in Bihar and Guwahati in Assam reported even higher annual average PM2.5 levels in 2023.
  • Begusarai recorded an alarming average of 118.9 µg/m3, while Guwahati registered 105.4 µg/m3, surpassing Delhi in terms of pollution levels.

Trends Over Time:

  • Delhi’s air quality demonstrated a worrying trend, with a deterioration observed in 2023 compared to 2022.
  • The average annual PM2.5 concentration increased to 92.7 µg/m3 in 2023, marking a 10% rise from the previous year’s figure of 92.6 µg/m3.
  • The report highlighted November and December as the most polluted months in 2023, with PM2.5 levels soaring to alarming levels.

National and Global Context:

  • India ranked third globally in terms of annual average PM2.5 levels, with a staggering 54.4 µg/m3, trailing behind Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  • The report painted a dire picture of air quality across India, with the majority of the population experiencing PM2.5 levels far exceeding WHO guidelines.
  • Delhi, in particular, spent a significant portion of the year at PM2.5 levels exceeding WHO guidelines by over tenfold, indicating the pervasive nature of the pollution crisis.


  • Exposure to PM2.5 particles has been linked directly to various health problems, including cardiovascular and neurological diseases, as well as increased mortality rates.
  • The findings underscore the urgent need for concerted efforts to address Delhi’s air pollution crisis, with a focus on implementing effective mitigation measures and policies to safeguard public health and the environment.
Government Initiatives to Control Delhi’s Pollution
  • Green War Room: A nine-member team that monitors the actions taken by 20 government agencies against pollution on a real-time and daily basis.
  • Anti-Pollution Campaign: Delhi Government has recently launched a major anti-pollution campaign, Yuddh Pradushan Ke Viruddh, which includes a tree transplantation and other such initiatives.
  • Green Delhi App: A mobile app that allows citizens to report any instances of pollution such as garbage burning, industrial emissions, or traffic congestion.
  • Bio-Decomposer: A solution developed by PUSA institute that helps farmers decompose the crop residue in their fields without burning it. The government provides free spraying of bio-decomposer in Delhi’s farmlands.
  • Water Sprinklers: The use of water sprinklers, mechanized road sweeping machines, anti-smog guns, and sprinkling facilities on high-rise buildings to reduce dust and particulate matter in the air.
  • Industry Pollution: The monitoring of industrial sites and ensuring that they use clean and authorized fuel. The government has also extended piped natural gas (PNG) to industries and set up the country’s first e-waste eco-park in Delhi.
  • PUC Certificates: The enforcement of pollution under control (PUC) certificates for vehicles and banning trucks that carry non-essential goods from entering the city. The government has also hired 1,000 private CNG vehicles to augment the public transport system.
  • Smog Towers: The installation of smog towers that use large fans and filters to purify the air. The first smog tower has been set up at Connaught Place and has shown positive effects.
  • Pollution Hotspots: The identification of 21 pollution hotspots in Delhi and deploying special teams to monitor and mitigate the sources of pollution in these areas.

PYQ: In the cities of our country, which among the following atmospheric gases are normally considered in calculating the value of Air Quality Index? (2016)

1) Carbon dioxide

2) Carbon monoxide

3) Nitrogen dioxide

4) Sulfur dioxide

5) Methane

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only

(b) 2, 3 and 4 only

(c) 1, 4 and 5 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Ans: (b)

Practice Question:  Discuss the findings of the World Air Quality Report for 2023 regarding Delhi’s air pollution crisis and its implications. Also, examine the significance of global comparisons and the need for concerted efforts to address environmental degradation in urban centers. (250 words/15 m)

2. WMO Declares 2023 as Warmest Year on Record, Highlights Concerning Trends in Greenhouse Gas Concentrations and Oceanic Impact

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environmental impact assessment.
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the implications of rising temperatures, oceanic warming, and extreme climate events.
  • The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) announced in its latest State of the Climate Report that 2023 marked the warmest year on record globally, with the past decade, spanning from 2014 to 2023, being the warmest ever recorded.
  • The global mean surface temperature in 2023 was observed to be 1.45 degrees Celsius higher than the average of the pre-industrial period of 1850-1900, surpassing the previous record set in 2016 by 0.16 degrees Celsius.

More about the news:
Rising Greenhouse Gas Concentrations:

  • The report highlighted concerning trends in greenhouse gas concentrations, with carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide reaching new records in 2022.
  • Carbon dioxide concentrations rose to 417.9 parts per million, methane concentrations reached 1,923 parts per billion, and nitrous oxide concentrations were observed at 335.8 parts per billion.
  • These concentrations represent significant increases compared to pre-industrial levels, contributing to the ongoing climate crisis.

Oceanic Impact and Heat Content:

  • The oceanic impact of rising greenhouse gas emissions was underscored, as oceans absorb excess energy and carbon dioxide.
  • The ocean heat content in 2023 reached a 65-year high, indicating a concerning trend of ocean warming.
  • The Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and Pacific Ocean experienced unusual warmth, particularly due to El Nino conditions that prevailed during the year.

Marine Heatwaves and Climate Events:

  • Marine heatwaves, analogous to heatwaves on land, persisted in various oceanic regions, particularly in the North Atlantic Ocean, influenced by the El Nino phenomenon.
  • Approximately 32% of the global oceans experienced marine heatwaves daily in 2023, indicating the widespread impact of warming oceanic temperatures on marine ecosystems and climate patterns.

WMO’s Assessment and Outlook:

  • The WMO Secretary-General, Celeste Saulo, emphasized the severity of the climate crisis, stressing that humanity faces a defining challenge.
  • With the continued rise in greenhouse gas concentrations, record-high ocean heat content, and persistent marine heatwaves, urgent action is required to address the underlying causes of climate change and mitigate its far-reaching impacts on global ecosystems and human societies.

What is the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)?
  • The WMO is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 192 Member States and Territories.
  • India is a member of WMO.
  • It originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), which was established after the 1873 Vienna International Meteorological Congress.
  • Established by the ratification of the WMO Convention on 23rd March 1950, WMO became the specialized agency of the United Nations for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences.
  • WMO is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

PYQ: Discuss global warming and mention its effects on the global climate. Explain the control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gases which cause global warming, in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022)
Practice Question:  Discuss the findings and implications of the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) report on climate change for the year 2023. Evaluate the significance of these findings in the context of global efforts to combat climate change. (250 words/15 m)

3. Supreme Court Halts Defamation Proceedings Against Kejriwal, Cites Free Speech Concerns

Topic: GS2 – Polity – Indian constitution – Significant provisions

 This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as this discussion on balancing rights, particularly the right to freedom of speech and the right to reputation, is pertinent to understanding the constitutional framework governing these fundamental rights.


  • The Supreme Court intervened in a criminal defamation case against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, restraining further proceedings until mid-May.
  • This move follows Kejriwal’s challenge to a Delhi High Court order upholding the summons issued to him for retweeting a YouTube video against the BJP’s IT cell in 2018.

More about the news:

View of the Delhi High Court: Expanding the Definition of Publication:

  • The Delhi High Court’s perspective on defamation, particularly regarding retweets, is noteworthy.
  • Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma observed that every retweet of a defamatory imputation would ordinarily amount to “publication” under IPC Section 499.
  • The High Court emphasized that when a public figure tweets a defamatory post, the ramifications extend beyond a mere whisper, potentially impacting reputations significantly.

Understanding Defamation in Law:

  • Defamation can manifest as a civil wrong or a criminal offense. Civil defamation, including libel and slander, entails financial compensation.
  • Conversely, criminal defamation, as per Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, requires proof beyond reasonable doubt and can result in a jail term of up to two years, with or without a fine.

Balancing Rights: Free Speech vs. Right to Reputation:

  • The Supreme Court, in its 2016 ruling in Subramanian Swamy vs. Union of India, upheld the constitutionality of IPC Sections 499 and 500, affirming that criminal defamation is a reasonable restriction on the right to freedom of expression protected under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • However, Article 19(2) allows the state to impose reasonable restrictions on free speech in the interest of various factors, including defamation.

Consequences of Retweeting: Legal Interpretations:

  • The act of retweeting allegedly defamatory content raises questions about liability.
  • Senior advocate Madhavi Goradia Divan highlighted that defamation involves the lowering of one’s reputation in the public eye and communication of the defamatory statement to a third person.
  • She emphasized that retweeting multiplies quickly, causing significant damage, especially in cases of online abuse.

Delhi HC’s Ruling on Kejriwal’s Case: Political and Social Standing:

  • In Kejriwal’s case, the Delhi High Court ruled that retweeting defamatory content could prima facie attract liability under IPC Section 499.
  • Despite the absence of malicious intent, the court emphasized the responsibility accompanying Kejriwal’s political and social standing.
  • The large social media following of a Chief Minister implies a broader reach, making any retweet a form of public endorsement or acknowledgment.

Conclusion: Striking a Balance:

  • The case underscores the complexities of navigating free speech and defamation laws in the digital age.
  • While individuals have the right to express themselves, they must also consider the potential consequences of their actions, especially when holding positions of influence.
  • Balancing these rights is crucial in upholding both freedom of expression and the right to reputation in a democratic society.

Legal Precedents and Interpretations

  • Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India (2015): Section 66A of The IT Act, 2000, had criminalised sending “offensive messages” utilizing “a computer resource or a communication device”. This provision was quashed by the SC given the ambiguity in the definition of the term “offensive”.
  • Subramanian Swamy vs. Union of India (2016): The Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of criminal defamation laws, balancing the right to reputation with freedom of expression.
  • Kaushal Kishore vs. Union of India (2017): The Court clarified that additional restrictions on free speech must align with Article 19(2) and cannot be arbitrarily imposed.

PYQ: What do you understand by the concept “freedom of speech and expression”? Does it cover hate speech also? Why do the films in India stand on a slightly different plane from other forms of expression? Discuss. (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2014)

Practice Question:  Evaluate the significance of the Court’s interpretation of retweeting as a form of publication and endorsement, particularly in the context of social media and public figures. Additionally, examine the impact of this ruling on the political and social standing of public officials and the accountability of individuals with significant online influence. (250 words/15 m)

4. RITES conducting feasibility studies along IMEC corridor

Topic: GS2 – International Relations, GS3 –  Infrastructure

IMEC is crucial for UPSC as it reflects India’s role in global trade, geopolitics, and navigating India’s strategic policies.


●     The news discusses RITES Ltd.’s involvement in developing missing rail links along the strategic India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC).

 Additional information on this news:

  • RITES Ltd., a leading railway PSU, is a key contender for development along the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC).
  • Feasibility analysis, in collaboration with AD Ports, is underway for enhancing the existing rail corridor passing through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel.
  • Multiple missing links along the corridor are identified, requiring capacity augmentation, designs, and cost assessments.
  • Proposed rail routes include Jebel Ali to Haifa (2,565 km with 745 km missing link), Abu Dhabi to Haifa (2,449 km with 629 km missing link), Dammam port to Haifa (2,149 km with 289 km missing link), and Ras Al-Khair port to Haifa (1,809 km with 269 km missing link).
  • AD Ports intends to invest in infrastructure augmentation along the entire corridor, not just in the UAE leg.
  • Early-stage efforts include analyzing cargo potential, infrastructure enhancement at ports, and outlining funding mechanisms across participating countries.

India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC):

Strategic Initiative: India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) aims to enhance economic connectivity between India, the Middle East, and Europe.

● Game-Changing Potential: IMEC is seen as a pivotal initiative with significant strategic and economic implications for the participating nations.

● Origin on Indian Soil: IMEC is projected to be remembered as an initiative originating from Indian territory, underlining India’s proactive role in global economic initiatives.

●  Global Dynamics: IMEC responds to evolving global geopolitics and economic trends, including reshoring, disruption of supply chains, and competition for critical resources and technologies.

● Post-Pandemic Reconfiguration: The initiative gains importance in the context of the reconfiguration of the global economic landscape post-COVID-19, with initiatives like IMEC aiming to navigate the emerging world order.

● Addressing Global Challenges: IMEC seeks to leverage economic integration to tackle global challenges such as inflation, public debt, low trade growth, and climate issues.

● Potential Impact: IMEC represents a significant step towards fostering economic cooperation and reshaping regional and global trade dynamics between the involved regionss

Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) in reshaping India’s role in global trade and geopolitics. (150 Words /10 marks)

5. 27.6 million people engaged in forced labour in 2021: ILO

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Vulnerable Sections

UPSC candidates should understand forced labor’s economic and humanitarian impact, reflecting on global socio-economic issues and human rights.

●     The news discusses an International Labour Organization study revealing a 37% increase in illegal profits from forced labor since 2014, urging global action.

 Additional information on this news:

  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) study reveals forced labor generates illegal profits of $36 billion annually, a 37% increase since 2014.
  • Factors driving this increase include more people forced into labour and higher profits from exploitation.
  • Surveys, including those involving Indian workers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were conducted for the study.
  • Traffickers generate around $10,000 per victim, up from $8,269 a decade ago.
  • Europe and Central Asia have the highest illegal profits at $84 billion, followed by Asia-Pacific ($62B), the Americas ($52B), Africa ($20B), and Arab States ($18B).
  • Forced commercial sexual exploitation yields 73% of total illegal profits, though it involves only 27% of victims in privately imposed labour.
  • Industries like industry ($35B), services ($20.8B), agriculture ($5.0B), and domestic work ($2.6B) are significant contributors to illegal profits.
  • ILO Director-General stresses the urgent need for global action to combat forced labour’s perpetuation of poverty and exploitation.
  • The report estimates 27.6 million people engaged in forced labour daily in 2021, with an increase of 2.7 million since 2016.
Issue of bonded labour in India:

Why Bonded Labour Exists:

●   Poverty & Vulnerability: Low income and social marginalization make people easy targets.

●   Debt Trap: Borrowed money with high interest traps workers in servitude.

●   Lack of Awareness: Workers unaware of their rights or how to access help.

●   Weak Enforcement: Loopholes and corruption hinder legal efforts.

The Way Forward:

●   Strengthen Enforcement: More proactive identification & rescue efforts.

●   Financial Inclusion: Microloans & alternative credit options to break debt cycles.

●   Education & Awareness: Campaigns to inform workers of their rights.

●  Livelihood Programs: Skilling & job opportunities for rescued workers.

●   Rehabilitation Support: Help reintegrate rescued workers into society.

Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of the rise in illegal profits from forced labor for global economic and social justice. (150 Words /10 marks)

6. GeM portal hopes to get more start-ups onboard: official

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy

GeM’s promotion of start-ups aligns with India’s economic goals, fostering innovation, entrepreneurship, and inclusive growth, crucial for UPSC.


● The news highlights GeM’s efforts to promote start-up participation in public procurement, offering financial support and market visibility through initiatives like GeM Sahay 2.0 and Start-up Runway.

 Additional information on this news:

  • GeM (Government e-Marketplace) aims to boost start-up participation in public procurement, with nearly 23,000 start-ups currently onboard.
  • Expected to surpass ₹4-lakh crore GMV this year, GeM serves 1.5 lakh buyers and 21 lakh sellers, including small and micro enterprises.
  • Start-ups fulfilled 84,000 orders worth ₹9,725 crore last year, showcasing significant growth and opportunity.
  • GeM Sahay 2.0, a mobile-based lending platform, will provide collateral-free loans up to ₹10 lakh with interest rates capped at 10%.
  • Loans through GeM Sahay 2.0 will be approved within 10 minutes, easing financial barriers for start-ups.
  • GeM’s ‘Start-up Runway’ initiative offers direct visibility to start-ups with public procurement portal buyers, enhancing market access.

GeM (Government e-Marketplace)

What is GeM (Government e-Marketplace):

●  GeM, or Government e-Marketplace, is an online platform established by the Indian government to facilitate procurement of goods and services by various government departments and organizations.

●Launched in 2016, GeM aims to bring transparency, efficiency, and cost savings to government procurement processes.

Advantages of GeM:

● Transparency: GeM provides a transparent and accountable procurement process, reducing corruption and favoritism.

● Cost Savings: By eliminating intermediaries and streamlining processes, GeM helps in achieving cost savings for the government.

● Increased Efficiency: The platform offers a single-window system for procurement, making it easier for government buyers to find and purchase goods and services.

● Wider Reach: GeM allows sellers from all over India to register and offer their products and services, providing opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to access government markets.

●  Digitalization: GeM promotes the government’s digitalization efforts by digitizing procurement processes, reducing paperwork, and promoting e-governance.

●  Compliance: GeM ensures compliance with government procurement rules and regulations, ensuring fair and competitive practices.

Overall, GeM plays a crucial role in modernizing government procurement, promoting transparency, efficiency, and inclusivity in the procurement ecosystem.

Practice Question:  Discuss the role of GeM in fostering entrepreneurial growth and promoting inclusive development in India (150 Words /10 marks)

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