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23 May 2024 : Daily Current Affairs

1. Ireland, Norway, and Spain set to formally recognise the statehood of Palestine

Topic: GS2 – International Relations
Context
● Ireland, Norway, and Spain announced their formal recognition of Palestine amid escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas, following a deadly Hamas attack and Israeli retaliations.

● This move aligns with a recent UN vote supporting Palestine’s full membership and reflects ongoing international debates over Middle East peace efforts.

 Analysis of the news:

  • Ireland, Norway, and Spain announced on Wednesday that they will formally recognize the state of Palestine on May 28.
  • Ireland’s Prime Minister Simon Harris linked the recognition to Ireland’s own freedom struggle from Britain and expressed that recognizing Palestine would lead to peace and reconciliation in West Asia.
  • Ireland also emphasised Israel’s right to “exist securely and at peace” with its neighbours and called for no further military actions in Rafah by Israel and no more rockets fired at Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah.
  • The announcements follow the recent UN General Assembly vote, where 143 out of 193 countries supported full UN membership for Palestine.
  • EU reactions were mixed regarding ICC prosecutor Karim Khan’s decision to seek arrest warrants for Israeli leaders Netanyahu and Gallant and for Hamas leaders over possible war crimes.
  • Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store stressed that the recognition of Palestine is crucial for a two-state solution and cannot wait until the conflict is resolved.
  • Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stated that recognizing Palestine is a step towards “peace, justice and moral consistency,” not against Israel.
  • The conflict escalated after a Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, killing around 1,200 people and taking 252 hostages, leading to Israeli retaliatory strikes that killed over 35,000 Palestinians according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
  • The UN estimated that 7,797 children were killed in Gaza as of April 30.
 Potential implications of this move:
Diplomatic Shift: Enhances Palestine’s legitimacy and diplomatic standing, encouraging other nations to follow suit.

Pressure on Israel: Increases international pressure on Israel to halt further military actions and engage in peace negotiations.

Peace Process: Potentially revitalises stalled peace talks by emphasising the need for a two-state solution.

UN Membership: Strengthens Palestine’s case for full UN membership and greater involvement in international forums.

European Union Dynamics: May cause divisions within the EU, with member states having varying stances on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Conflict Dynamics: Could escalate tensions with Israel viewing this as a challenge to its policies, possibly leading to heightened conflict.

Global Reactions: Influences global diplomatic strategies and alliances, potentially affecting US and other nations’ policies towards the Middle East.

Humanitarian Impact: Highlights the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, potentially leading to increased international aid and support for Palestinian civilians.

PYQ:

Prelims:

Q 1. Which one of the following countries of South-West Asia does not open out to the Mediterranean Sea? (UPSC civil services prelims 2015)

 

(a) Syria
(b) Jordan
(c) Lebanon
(d) Israel

Ans: B

Mains:

‘India’s relations with Israel have, of late, acquired a depth and diversity, which cannot be rolled back.” Discuss. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2018)

Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of Ireland, Norway, and Spain formally recognizing the state of Palestine amidst the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. How does this recognition influence international efforts towards a two-state solution? (250 Words /15 marks)

(Source – The Hindu, International Edition – Page No. – 1)

2. What is the value of attributing extreme events to climate change?

Topic: GS1 – Geography – Climate Change – Effects of Climate change

GS3 – Environment and Ecology – Environmental pollution and degradation

Context
The article discusses the evolving role of attribution science in linking individual extreme weather events to climate change.

● It explores challenges in using attribution for legal liability and multilateral discussions, highlighting the significance of such attributions in ‘loss and damage’ negotiations under the UNFCCC.

 Evolution of Climate Science:

  • Until recently, the IPCC argued against attributing individual weather events to climate change.
  • However, advancements in science now allow researchers to link some extreme events to climate change, albeit with uncertainties.
  • This evolution raises questions about the maturity of attribution science for legal and multilateral applications.

Significance of Attribution:

  • Attribution reports are argued to be crucial for assessing richer countries’ historic liability and the legal liability of governments and corporations.
  • Such attributions are particularly relevant in the context of ‘loss and damage’ (L&D) discussions under the UNFCCC.
  • Developing countries, especially those deemed ‘particularly vulnerable,’ seek L&D funds to mitigate climate change impacts within their borders.
 What is ‘Loss and Damage’ (L&D) under the UNFCCC?
Definition: ‘Loss and Damage’ (L&D) refers to the negative impacts of climate change that exceed a country’s ability to cope.

UNFCCC Framework: Recognized under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a critical component of addressing climate impacts.

Warsaw International Mechanism: Established in 2013 to promote implementation of approaches to address L&D associated with climate change impacts.

Funding Needs: Highlights the need for financial support to developing countries facing severe climate-induced losses and damages.

Non-Economic Losses: Includes loss of life, biodiversity, and cultural heritage alongside economic damages like property destruction.

COP27 Progress: The 2022 COP27 summit resulted in the establishment of a dedicated fund to address L&D, marking significant progress in climate negotiations.

 Challenges in Identifying Vulnerability:

  • Determining which countries qualify as ‘particularly vulnerable’ is crucial.
  • While countries like India are highly vulnerable, they may not qualify for L&D funding.
  • This raises debates on whether climate finance should focus solely on adaptation and mitigation or administer separate L&D funds.

Heatwave Attribution in Asia:

  • A recent report by World Weather Attribution (WWA) found that climate change increased the likelihood of heatwaves across Asia by nearly 45 times.
  • Rapid extreme event attributions compare current conditions against a counterfactual world without climate change.
  • Data limitations, especially for rainfall events, pose challenges in attribution exercises.

Reliability of Attribution Reports:

  • Climate models often struggle to accurately capture extreme events, especially rainfall.
  • If attribution science advances to reliably attribute hyperlocal events, moral questions about subsequent actions arise.
  • Attribution exercises should integrate with governments’ adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Challenges in Selecting Events:

  • Choosing which extreme events to attribute poses significant challenges.
  • Factors such as natural variability, urbanisation, and land-use changes can complicate attributions.
  • There are debates over whether irrigation affects heatwaves and how to define and assess the frequency and intensity of events.

Impacts of Extreme Events:

  • The actual impacts of extreme events depend on vulnerability, exposure, and other factors.
  • Attribution exercises must consider not only the hazard but also its impacts and financial consequences.
  • These complexities highlight the need for a clear role for attribution in climate action.

International Financial Aspects:

  • Governments should address historical responsibilities in funding adaptation, mitigation, and L&D.
  • Agreement on funding mechanisms to close adaptation gaps and finance mitigation is crucial.
  • In a resource-constrained world, a cost-benefit analysis of attribution’s role in climate action is necessary.

Conclusion:

  • While attribution science has advanced, challenges remain in its application for legal and multilateral purposes.
  • Addressing these challenges requires integrating attribution with broader climate action strategies.
  • Clear agreements on funding mechanisms and roles for attribution are essential for effective climate resilience and mitigation efforts.
Practice Question:  How does the evolving field of attribution science impact international discussions on climate change mitigation and ‘loss and damage’? Discuss the challenges and significance of attributing extreme weather events to climate change in legal and multilateral contexts. (250 Words /15 marks)

(Source – The Hindu, International Edition – Page No. – 7)

3. On concerns over voter turnout data

Topic: GS2 –  Indian Polity
Context
The Supreme Court will hear a petition from the Association for Democratic Reforms, seeking a directive for the Election Commission of India to publish polling station-wise voter turnout data promptly.

● The move follows discrepancies in initial and final turnout figures, raising concerns about election transparency and data accuracy.

 Introduction

  • The Supreme Court of India is set to hear a petition on May 24, filed by the NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).
  • The petition requests the Election Commission of India (ECI) to upload polling station-wise voter turnout data on its website within 48 hours of the conclusion of each phase of the Lok Sabha elections.

Discrepancies in Voter Turnout Data

  • ADR has highlighted significant discrepancies between initial voter turnout figures released by the ECI shortly after polling and the final percentages published later.
  • These discrepancies have raised concerns from opposition parties and civil society regarding the authenticity of polling data and the potential for manipulation during the counting stage.

Legal Intervention and Concerns

  • On May 20, an intervention application was filed by an advocate who contested as an independent candidate, alleging non-compliance by the returning officer with the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
  • Civil society members have urged the ECI to disclose authenticated records of voter turnout from every polling station as recorded in Part I of Form 17C.

Form 17C Explained

  • According to the 1961 Rules, the ECI maintains two forms: Form 17A and Form 17C.
  • Form 17A records details of every voter who casts a vote, while Form 17C accounts for all votes recorded.
  • Under Rule 49S(2), the presiding officer must provide a copy of Form 17C entries to polling agents at the close of polling.
  • Part I of Form 17C includes information such as the identification numbers of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), total electors, votes recorded, and any anomalies.
  • Part II of Form 17C contains the results of the counting.

Purpose of Form 17C Data

  • The data in Form 17C allows candidates to verify results on counting day by matching it with the EVM count.
  • Discrepancies can lead to election petitions being filed in the concerned High Court.

Scrutiny of the Election Commission of India

  • The ECI has faced scrutiny for not releasing absolute vote numbers in the current general election, unlike in 2019.
  • Only voting percentages have been published, with significant delays: 11 days after the first phase and four days after the second phase of polling.
  • Opposition leaders have expressed doubts about the credibility of the ECI, citing unusual increases in final voter turnout percentages.

Opposition Leaders’ Concerns

  • Concerns have been raised about the absence of data on the number of eligible voters in each constituency, making it impossible to calculate changes in absolute voter numbers.
  • Social media platforms have seen demands for the ECI to publish detailed voter turnout information, with some opposition candidates managing to compile voter data themselves shortly after polling.

Election Commission of India’s Response

  • The ECI has stated it is not legally required to publish absolute vote numbers online.
  • Copies of Form 17C are shared with polling agents immediately, providing transparency and ensuring candidates have access to exact voter turnout data.
  • The ECI dismissed allegations of delay and data manipulation as attempts to create confusion and impede free and fair elections.
  • In a Supreme Court affidavit, the ECI argued that disclosing Form 17C data could cause confusion due to inclusion of postal ballot counts and potential misuse by vested interests.

Supreme Court’s Inquiry

  • The Supreme Court has sought the ECI’s response to ADR’s plea for uploading scanned copies of Form 17C within 48 hours of polling closure.
  • Chief Justice of India questioned the ECI’s counsel on why voting records are not uploaded when data is available soon after polling ends.

Expert Opinions and Transparency Issues

  • Experts have pointed out that the ECI typically discloses absolute voter turnout numbers promptly, unlike the current situation with delays and only percentages being published.
  • Transparency advocates suggest uploading Form 17C copies immediately after polling to address concerns.
  • Arguments against the ECI’s stance highlight that not all political parties have the resources to deploy polling agents in every booth, making it challenging for smaller parties and independent candidates to obtain Form 17C data.

Conclusion

  • The petition by ADR underscores the need for transparency and timely disclosure of voter turnout data to maintain trust in the electoral process.
  • The Supreme Court’s decision on this matter could set a precedent for future elections, ensuring greater accountability and transparency from the ECI.
PYQ:

Prelims:

Q 1. Consider the following statements: (UPSC civil services prelims 2017)

1.     The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.

2.     Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.

3.     Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognised political parties.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 3 only

Answer: (d)

Practice Question: Discuss the implications of discrepancies in voter turnout data on electoral transparency and public trust. How can timely publication of detailed polling data enhance the credibility of the election process? (250 Words /15 marks)

(Source – The Hindu, International Edition – Page No. – 10)

4. Extension of Smartphone PLI Scheme: Boosting India’s Electronics Manufacturing and Reducing Import Dependency

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors

GS3 – Indian Economy – Issues relating to growth

Context:
  • The Smartphone Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, recognized as the most successful among 14 such schemes in India, is projected to extend beyond its official end in 2025-26.
  • Initiated in 2020, the scheme aimed to boost domestic manufacturing of smartphones by offering incentives based on production volumes.
Analysis of News:

What is the Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI):

  • The PLI scheme was conceived to scale up domestic manufacturing capability, accompanied by higher import substitution and employment generation.
  • Launched in March 2020, the scheme initially targeted three industries:
    • Mobile and allied Component Manufacturing
    • Electrical Component Manufacturing and
    • Medical Devices.
  • Later, it was extended to 14 sectors.
  • In the PLI scheme, Domestic and Foreign companies receive financial rewards for manufacturing in India, based on a percentage of their revenue over up to five years.
  • Targeted Sectors:
    • The 14 sectors are mobile manufacturing, manufacturing of medical devices, automobiles and auto components, pharmaceuticals, drugs, specialty steel, telecom & networking products, electronic products, white goods (ACs and LEDs), food products, textile products, solar PV modules, advanced chemistry cell (ACC) battery, and drones and drone components.

Current Status and Performance:

  • The five-year PLI scheme allowed companies to select any five consecutive years within its duration. Apple chose the period from 2021-2026, while Samsung opted for 2020-2025.
  • The scheme has significantly boosted domestic production and exports. In FY24, domestic production rose to Rs 4.1 trillion from Rs 2.14 trillion in FY20, while smartphone exports increased to Rs 1.2 trillion from Rs 27,225 crore in the same period.

Need for Extension:

  • While perpetual support via subsidies is not ideal, abrupt termination could be counter-productive.
  • Hence, the government is considering an extension of the PLI scheme for a couple of years to allow manufacturers to scale up component production domestically.
  • Currently, many components are imported, contributing to the current account deficit. The extension aims to maintain support for finished products until local manufacturers can adequately produce components.

Transition to a Component-Incentive Scheme:

  • The government plans to transition from the PLI scheme for finished products to a component-incentive scheme.
  • This shift is intended to reduce dependency on imported components and increase domestic value addition from the current 15-18% to an initial target of 35-40%, potentially reaching 50%.
  • This transition will facilitate the creation of a robust component manufacturing ecosystem, crucial for reducing import bills and enhancing self-reliance.

Success Stories and Major Beneficiaries:

  • Apple and Samsung are the biggest beneficiaries of the PLI scheme, with Apple assembling iPhones through contract manufacturers like Foxconn, Pegatron, and Wistron.
  • Local manufacturer Dixon Technologies has also benefited, producing phones for brands such as Xiaomi, Samsung, and Motorola.
  • Dixon is set to start manufacturing Google Pixel phones, indicating the scheme’s success in attracting significant production investments.

Implementation of the Component-Incentive Scheme:

  • The new component-incentive scheme, expected to be finalized after the new government assumes office, will follow a plug-and-play model.
  • This approach involves the government acquiring land and building factories, which global companies can then equip to produce components like printed circuit boards, resistors, diodes, and camera modules.
  • This model aims to attract investments, reduce production costs, and integrate domestic manufacturers into global value chains.

Economic Impacts and Strategic Goals:

  • The government’s investment in infrastructure for component manufacturing is anticipated to recoup costs through goods and services taxes.
  • Additionally, reducing the import bill for electronic components will alleviate the current account deficit. The broader goal is to enhance domestic electronics manufacturing, which was valued at $115 billion in FY24, with a target of $300 billion by 2025-26.
  • This expansion is crucial for maintaining India’s competitive edge against countries like China, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Conclusion:

  • Extending the PLI scheme for smartphones and transitioning to a component-incentive scheme reflects India’s strategic efforts to bolster domestic manufacturing and reduce import dependency.
  • By fostering an environment conducive to both finished product assembly and component production, India aims to strengthen its position in the global electronics market, enhance economic resilience, and achieve substantial growth in the electronics manufacturing sector.
What are the Concerns Regarding the PLI Scheme?
  • Competition and Market Dynamics: The scheme may create price wars or market distortions among the participating companies, affecting their profitability and sustainability.
  • Compliance and Reporting Burden: The scheme requires companies to submit various documents and reports to claim the incentives, which may increase their administrative costs and delays.
  • Assembly vs. Value Addition: The scheme does not differentiate between the value added by manufacturing in India and the value added by importing components and assembling them in India. This may result in low value addition and innovation in the domestic industry.
  • Production of Low-value Goods: Low-value goods production is more prevalent than that of high-value goods. The United States and the European Union primarily engage in transactions involving high-value goods.
  • Research and Development: Insufficient attention is dedicated to Research and Development in the formulation of export-oriented policies.
  • Implementation and Coordination Issues: The scheme involves multiple ministries and departments, which may create confusion and inconsistency in the implementation and monitoring of the scheme.
PYQ: Consider, the following statements: (2023)

Statement-I: India accounts for 3.2% of global export of goods.

Statement-II: Many local companies and some foreign companies operating in India have taken advantage of India’s ‘Production-linked Incentive’ scheme.

Which one of the following is correct in respect of the above statements?

(a) Both Statement-I and Statement-II are correct and Statement-II is the correct explanation for Statement-I

(b) Both Statement-I and Statement-II are correct and Statement-II is not the correct explanation for Statement-I

(c) Statement-I is correct but Statement-II is incorrect

(d) Statement-I is incorrect but Statement-II is correct

Ans: (d)

Practice Question:  Evaluate the impact of the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme on India’s smartphone manufacturing sector. How can these initiatives help reduce import dependency and enhance India’s position in the global electronics market? (250 words/15 m)

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

5. Army Conducts Comprehensive Survey on Agnipath Scheme to Evaluate and Recommend Potential Reforms

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors

GS3 – Internal Security

Context:
  • The article discusses the Indian Army’s internal survey on the Agnipath scheme, a recruitment initiative launched in June 2022 to enlist Agniveers for a four-year period.
  • The survey aims to assess the scheme’s impact on recruitment processes and gather feedback from various stakeholders, including Agniveers, recruiters, training staff, and unit commanders.
  • The findings will inform potential recommendations for adjustments to the scheme and its long-term sustainability.
Analysis of News:

What is the Agnipath Scheme?

  • It allows patriotic and motivated youth to serve in the Armed Forces for a period of four years.
  • Under this scheme, the youth joining the army will be called Agniveer. Youth will be able to be recruited into the army for a short duration.
  • Under the new scheme, around 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers will be recruited annually, and most will leave the service in just four years.
  • However, after four years, only 25% of the batch will be recruited back into their respective services, for a period of 15 years.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • It is only for personnel below officer ranks (those who do not join the forces as commissioned officers).
  • Commissioned officers are the army’s highest ranked officers.
  • Commissioned officers hold an exclusive rank in the Indian armed forces. They often hold a commission under the president’s sovereign power and are officially instructed to protect the country.
  • Aspirants between the ages of 17.5 years and 23 years will be eligible to apply.

Objectives:

  • It aims at providing an opportunity to the patriotic and motivated youth with the ‘Josh’ and ‘Jazba’ to join the Armed Forces.
  • It is expected to bring down the average age profile of the Indian Armed Forces by about 4 to 5 years.
  • The scheme envisions that, the average age in the forces is 32 years today, which will go down to 26 in six to seven years.

Benefits for Agniveers:

  • Upon the completion of the 4-years of service, a one-time ‘Seva Nidhi’ package of Rs 11.71 lakhs will be paid to the Agniveers that will include their accrued interest thereon.
  • They will also get a Rs 48 lakh life insurance cover for the four years.
  • In case of death, the payout will be over Rs 1 crore, including pay for the unserved tenure.
  • The government will help rehabilitate soldiers who leave the services after four years. They will be provided with skill certificates and bridge courses.

Purpose and Scope of the Survey:

  • To evaluate the impact of the Agnipath scheme on recruitment, the Army is conducting an internal survey.
  • This survey will gather inputs from various stakeholders, including Agniveers, recruiting and training staff at regimental centers, and unit commanders.
  • The feedback will inform recommendations for the incoming government on potential changes to the scheme.

Stakeholders’ Perspectives:

  • Agniveers: The survey will collect insights from Agniveers regarding their motivations for joining the Army, other job opportunities they considered, and their career preferences post-tenure. It will also gauge their interest in remaining with the Army or seeking employment elsewhere, including in paramilitary forces. Agniveers will provide feedback on whether they would recommend the program to others.
  • Recruiters and Training Staff: Recruiters will assess the primary motivations of applicants, their general awareness, and the quality of candidates from urban versus rural areas. Training staff will provide feedback on the physical standards, educational levels, and overall training assimilation of Agniveers compared to traditional recruits. They will also comment on the impact of competition for permanent absorption on Agniveers’ behavior and their bonding levels.
  • Unit and Sub-Unit Commanders: Commanders will evaluate whether Agniveers are assets or liabilities in military operations and other HR issues. They will compare the performance of Agniveers to soldiers recruited before the Agnipath scheme, noting any positive or negative qualities observed.

Key Areas of Assessment:

  • Motivation and Awareness: Understanding why candidates choose to join as Agniveers, their awareness of the scheme, and their overall quality.
  • Impact on Recruitment: Analyzing the overall impact of the Agnipath scheme on Army recruitment, including responses from different regions and changes in applicant quality due to the online entrance examination.
  • Training and Integration: Assessing the physical and educational standards of Agniveers, their uptake of training, and how competition for permanent positions influences their behavior and integration.
  • Operational Performance: Evaluating whether Agniveers contribute positively or negatively to military operations, and how their performance compares to traditionally recruited soldiers.
  • Future Prospects and Retention: Gauging Agniveers’ career preferences post-tenure and their likelihood of remaining in the Army or pursuing other opportunities.

Potential Recommendations:

Based on the survey findings, the Army may propose adjustments to the Agnipath scheme. These could include:

  • Engagement Terms: Modifying the terms of engagement for Agniveers to ensure better alignment with long-term service requirements.
  • Retention Rates: Reassessing the sustainable percentage of Agniveers to be retained after their tenure.
  • Career Support: Enhancing support for Agniveers in finding post-service opportunities.

Conclusion:

  • The internal survey on the Agnipath scheme represents a proactive approach by the Army to refine its recruitment processes based on empirical feedback.
  • By understanding the perspectives of all stakeholders involved, the Army aims to optimize the scheme, ensuring it meets both organizational needs and the aspirations of the recruits.
  • This thorough evaluation will help the incoming government make informed decisions on the future of the Agnipath scheme.
What are the Related Concerns?
Difficult to Find Another Job:

  • The ‘Agnipath’ scheme opens the way for recruitment of about 45,000 soldiers into Army, Navy and Air Force in the first year but on a short-term contract of four years. After the completion of the contract, 25% of them will be retained and the rest will leave the forces.
  • Our four years of service will mean other jobs will be out of reach after that, and we will be left behind our peers.

No Pension Benefit:

  • Those hired under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme will be given a one-time lumpsum of a little more than Rs 11 lakh when they end their four-year tenure.
  • However, they do not receive any pension benefits. For most, seeking a second job is essential to support themselves and their families.

Training May Remain Unutilized:

  • Forces will lose experienced soldiers.
  • The jawans joining the Army, Navy and Air Force will be given technical training so that they are able to support the ongoing operations. But these men and women will leave after four years, which could create a void.
Practice Question:  Evaluate the Indian Army’s Agnipath scheme and its impact on recruitment processes. How can the Agnipath scheme be optimized to align with organizational needs and enhance recruitment effectiveness? (250 words/15 m)

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Cover Page; Page: 01)

 

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