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Daily Current Affairs

23-November-2023

1. Bihar Cabinet nod to seek special status for State.

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Context:

  • The Bihar Cabinet, on Wednesday, approved a resolution urging the Central government to confer special category status upon the State.
  • This move comes shortly after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar issued a warning of launching a protest if the demand is not met.

What is special category status and by Bihar is demanding it? 

Definition:

  • Special Category Status (SCS) is a classification given by the Central government to certain states in India, entailing preferential treatment in the form of financial assistance, tax breaks, and other benefits.

Criteria for SCS:

  • Historically, states with characteristics like hilly and difficult terrain, low population density, large tribal population, strategic location along borders, economic backwardness, and other specific criteria were granted SCS.

Benefits of SCS:

  • States with SCS receive a higher share of central assistance grants, a lower share of their own resources for centrally sponsored schemes, and other financial incentives to promote development.

Bihar’s Demand:

  • Bihar, led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has been advocating for the grant of Special Category Status to expedite its economic development.
  • The demand is fueled by the state’s socio-economic challenges, and Kumar has emphasized that SCS would significantly boost Bihar’s growth.

Rationale Behind Demand:

  • Bihar contends that the state faces unique challenges such as economic backwardness, high population density, and the need for additional support to overcome developmental hurdles.
  • The special status is seen as crucial for addressing these challenges and accelerating the pace of growth in the state.

Threat of Movement:

  • CM Nitish Kumar, expressing frustration over the prolonged wait for special status, has warned of launching a movement if the demand remains unfulfilled.
  • The threat signifies the state’s determination to push for its socio-economic upliftment through enhanced central assistance.

Political Implications:

  • The demand for Special Category Status is not just an economic requirement but also carries political significance, reflecting the aspirations of the people and the state government’s commitment to development.

2. Haryana’s employment reservation law

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Context:

  • Punjab and Haryana High Court, on November 17, declared Haryana’s 2020 law for 75% reservation for locals in private sector jobs as unconstitutional.
  • The Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020, was challenged on the grounds of violating fundamental rights.

Details of the Reservation Law:

Enactment:

  • Passed in November 2020, it mandated 75% reservation for jobs below ₹30,000 monthly salary for Haryana residents.
  • Applied to private entities, including companies, trusts, and others employing 10 or more persons.

Challenges to the Law:

Violation of Fundamental Rights:

  • Industry associations contested the law, alleging infringement of Article 19 (freedom of residence and profession) and Article 14 (equality before the law) of the Constitution.

Discrimination and Constitutional Issues:

  • Contention that the law creates discrimination between individuals domiciled in different states, contrary to the Constitution’s concept of common citizenship.

State’s Defense:

  • Haryana government argued the law aimed to protect local residents’ livelihood rights amid rising unemployment.
  • Invoked Article 16(4) of the Constitution, empowering the State to provide reservations in public employment for inadequately represented backward classes.

Other States and Supreme Court Intervention:

  • Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh enacted similar laws.
  • Supreme Court set aside Haryana’s law in February 2022, directing the High Court to expedite the decision.

High Court’s Ruling:

  • Declared the law unconstitutional, impairing the right to carry on occupation and creating artificial walls among states.
  • Emphasized that only Parliament, not State legislatures, can legislate on matters falling under Article 16(3) of the Constitution.
  • Criticized provisions creating an ‘Inspector Raj’ as an excessive State control over private employers.

Conclusion:

  • The High Court’s decision underscores constitutional concerns and the need for a balanced approach in legislating reservations impacting private employment.

Question: Examine the constitutional and legal implications of states enacting laws providing reservations for local residents in the private sector.

3. What is the ruling against the U.K.’s Rwanda deal?

Topic: GS2 – International relations.

Context:

  • The UK’s Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP) with Rwanda aimed at transferring asylum seekers not accepted by the UK.
  • Asylum seekers entering the UK through irregular journeys, like the English Channel, would be considered for transfer under this agreement.

More on this news:

  • UK’s Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP) with Rwanda ruled unlawful by UK Supreme Court.
  • The deal aimed to transfer asylum seekers not accepted by the UK to Rwanda.
  • Asylum applications screened, and refugees relocated with Rwanda determining their status.
  • Rwanda offered solutions like returning to the country of origin, moving to a third country, or settling in Rwanda.
  • Concerns raised about refugees’ safety and humanitarian standards.
  • Ruling questioned Rwanda’s human rights record and the UK’s responsibility to prevent refoulement.
  • Impact on similar deportation schemes and uncertainty over their legality.
  • Raises concerns about refugees’ treatment in third-party nations and potential influence on other EU countries’ deportation strategies.

4. Ethics and Epistemology of ancient Indian materialist.

Topic: GS2 – Indian culture.

Indian Philosophical Tradition: Origins and Development

The Indian philosophical tradition emerged from the observation and contemplation of the surrounding world. Various schools within this tradition developed their fundamental ideas in ontology, epistemology, and axiology.

Principle of Perception (Pratyaksa)

All schools of philosophy provided proofs, known as pramānas, for their conceptual frameworks. A common pramāna was pratyaksa, which refers to perception. Schools like Vedantic, Sāmkhya, and Vaiśesika rooted their beliefs in the principle of pratyaksa, considering it a principal proof. Materialism, in particular, asserts that perception serves as the foundation of all knowledge.

Inference in Lokāyata Philosophy

         The Lokāyatas, adherents of materialism, employed logically drawn inference as a follow-up to the proof of perception. They rejected claims that required a creator for the cosmos and refuted proofs beyond perception, emphasizing the materiality of reality.

Ethics of Materialism: ‘Eat, Drink, and Be Merry’

         The dictum “yāvat jīvēt sukham jīvēt” is often associated with the pleasure-seeking ways of materialists. Critics interpret it as endorsing a hedonistic lifestyle. However, materialists focused on maximizing value in this life and denied the existence of an afterlife.

Materialist Conception of Heaven and Hell

         Materialists recast religious notions of heaven and hell. Heaven, to them, represented royal luxuries and pleasurable experiences. Hell was described as experiencing death by an enemy’s weapon, diseases, starvation, and other earthly pains. The emphasis was on the earthly consequences of actions, rather than metaphysical repercussions.

Creation of Values in Materialism

         Values, according to materialists, are created by human beings. They asserted that one’s actions influence both oneself and the world, impacting societal well-being. Rejecting divine agency, materialism emphasizes human responsibility. The perspective of Indian revolutionary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh aligns with materialist values.

Critique of Ritualistic Excess in Vedic Age

 Materialists, including the Lokāyatas, rejected the ritualistic excess of the clergy, considering it exploitative and useless. They provided an easy outlet for the common masses to move away from such beliefs. This approach offered freedom in thought, religious, and social matters, and was beyond societal prejudices and conventions.

Legacy and Impact of Lokāyata Philosophy

The Lokāyatas left a legacy of bold canons and theories, reflecting freedom in thought. They operated beyond societal prejudices and conventions. Despite efforts, their philosophy, as credited to Chárváka, proved challenging to eradicate. The philosophy originated within the human mind in the quest for true freedom.

Note: article is not much important from prelims perspective, but points can be added in essay paper.

5. SC begins hearing on pleas against parties offering freebies during elections

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Context:

  • The Supreme Court is hearing petitions on declaring irrational freebies offered by political parties during elections as a “corrupt practice.”
  • In October, a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud sought responses from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan on the misuse of public funds for extravagant pre-election promises.
  • The court expressed concern about political parties fulfilling “wild” promises of largesse using public money, potentially affecting State finances.

Arguments against and in favour of offering freebies during election 

Arguments against offering freebies during elections:

  • Economic burden: Offering freebies places a significant financial burden on the government, often leading to fiscal deficits and debt accumulation. This can hinder the government’s ability to invest in essential infrastructure, education, and healthcare.
  • Distortion of electoral process: Freebies can distort the electoral process by influencing voters’ decisions based on immediate gratification rather than long-term policy considerations. This can undermine the democratic principle of informed and rational voting.
  • Unplanned expenditure: Freebies often arise from unplanned promises made during election campaigns, leading to inefficient allocation of public resources. This can hinder long-term economic planning and development.
  • Moral hazard: Freebies can create a moral hazard, where voters come to expect handouts from the government rather than taking responsibility for their own well-being. This can erode the spirit of self-reliance and entrepreneurship.

Arguments in favor of offering freebies during elections:

  • Social welfare: Freebies can provide immediate relief to vulnerable sections of society, such as the poor and marginalized. This can alleviate poverty, improve living standards, and promote social equity.
  • Economic stimulus: Freebies can act as a fiscal stimulus, boosting consumer spending and economic activity. This can be particularly beneficial during economic downturns.
  • Political inclusion: Freebies can empower marginalized groups and increase their political participation. This can contribute to a more inclusive and representative democracy.
  • Addressing market failures: Freebies can address market failures, such as inadequate access to essential goods and services. This can improve the quality of life for citizens.

Conclusion: The debate over freebies during elections is complex and multifaceted. While freebies can have positive effects, they also raise concerns about fiscal sustainability, electoral integrity, and long-term economic development.

Question: Evaluate the implications of the practice of offering freebies during elections in India. Critically assess the arguments for and against this practice, and suggest measures that can be taken to address the concerns surrounding it.

6. ‘Lower oxygen at high altitudes increases lifespan in ageing mice’

Topic: GS3 – Science and technology

More on this news:

  • A study in ageing mice suggests that lower oxygen content at high altitudes significantly increases lifespan.
  • This is the first study demonstrating that continuous hypoxia, or oxygen restriction, can extend the lifespan of an ageing mammal.
  • Previous reports on oxygen restriction lengthening lifespan were limited to less complex lab animals and mammalian cells grown in Petri dishes.
  • Hypoxic conditions, similar to those at the base camp of Mt. Everest, were created for mice, resulting in a 50% longer median lifespan compared to mice in normal oxygen conditions.
  • The mechanism behind how hypoxia extends lifespan remains unclear, requiring further research.

7. Ghol Fish

Topic: Prelims

Context:

  • Gujarat’s official state fish is the Black-Spotted Croaker, sometimes called the ghol fish, which is much sought-after by fisherman.
  • The Gujarat government made this announcement, citing the fish’s distinctive qualities and economic importance as reasons for the choice.
  • Scientifically known as Protonibea diacanthus, the ghol usually inhabits the waters between the Pacific and Persian Gulfs.
  • It is anticipated that the designation will strengthen state-wide efforts to conserve the species.

Criteria for Selection:

  • A number of factors contributed to the Gujarat government’s decision to declare the ghol the state fish.
  • First and foremost, authorities stressed the fish’s uniqueness and how uncommon it is to find.
  • Second, the ghol’s selection was heavily influenced by its financial worth.
  • The need to preserve the species was the third factor

Contenders in the Selection Process:

  • Representatives from several districts are consulted during the process of choosing a state fish.
  • In this instance, ribbon fish, pomfret, and Bombay Duck were among the options taken into consideration.
  • But in the end, the ghol’s unique qualities and economic significance led to its designation.

Commercial Significance of the Ghol:

  • Due to its high cost, the ghol is not very popular in the area, but it has enormous commercial potential, especially in China and other foreign markets.
  • Given that ghol is regarded as a delicacy in many nations, fishermen view catching one as equivalent to winning a lottery.
  • The fish’s air bladder, which is valued for medical purposes, is in high demand in China, Hong Kong, and other Asian countries.
  • The fish is shipped as frozen fillets or entire fish to European and Middle Eastern countries.

Economic Impact and Market Value:

  • In Gujarat, the market price of ghol is quite high, with a kilogram costing between Rs 5,000 and Rs 15,000.
  • The fish’s dried air bladder, on the other hand, commands the greatest price in the export market—up to Rs 25,000 per kilogram.
  • The Network for Fish Quality Management and Sustainable Fishing’s state coordinator, emphasized that a single ghol fish can weigh up to 25 kg, highlighting the fish’s economic significance for Gujarat’s fishing community.

Gujarat’s Fish Export Statistics:

  • Gujarat produced 8.74 lakh tonnes of fish in total during the fiscal year 2021–2022, valued at Rs 11,221 crore.
  • 3 lakh tonnes of fish and fish products worth Rs 5,233 crore were exported out of this, demonstrating the state’s significant contribution to the domestic and global fish markets.

8. Bihar Cabinet clears special status proposal, 2.5 lakh cr for poor

Topic: GS2- Governance

Context:

  • The Bihar Cabinet took a big step when it decided to fund 94 lakh economically disadvantaged families identified by the Bihar caste survey with ₹2.5 lakh crore over the course of the next five years.

  • This decision tackles several facets of improving livelihood while attempting to give financial assistance to individuals in need.

Quota Expansion and Legislative Approval:

  • The Bihar Governor recently approved the Bihar Reservation (Amendment) Bill, which was enacted by both Houses of the legislature during the Winter Session.
  • This is the decision made by the Cabinet.
  • With the addition of the current 10% EWS quota, the amendment essentially creates a new quota cap of 75% by increasing the quota cap from 50% to 65%.

Financial Aid Distribution:

  • The government announcement states that almost 94 lakh families will get ₹2 lakh in installments to help one of their relatives pursue self-employment prospects.
  • Moreover, 63,850 families that are without land would receive ₹1 lakh apiece to buy land for a home, plus an extra ₹1.2 lakh for building.
  • In addition, everyone of the 39 lakh families living in thatched dwellings will get ₹1.2 lakh to build decent residences.
  • A current livelihood scheme is also revised by the Cabinet’s resolution, which increases the cash aid for eligible impoverished families from ₹1 lakh to ₹2 lakh.

Seeking Special Category Status:

  • The Bihar Cabinet approved a plan to ask the Central government for special category status in an effort to lessen the budgetary burden connected with these benefit schemes.
  • Citing the large sum needed over the next five years, the statement stressed the necessity for special category status to speed up the implementation of these projects.

Longstanding Demand for Special Category Status:

  • The Bihar government organized protests in Patna in 2012 and New Delhi in 2013, respectively, to reiterate its demand for special category status, which it has had since 2010.
  • Bihar’s application for special status has not advanced even after the then-UPA administration established the Raghuram Rajan Committee in 2013.
  • Since 2007, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has pushed for special category status, pointing out that special category states have a better financing ratio—90:10—between the federal government and the state for centrally sponsored programs than other states.

9. Eight states in N-E selected for tourism development

Topic: GS2- Governance

Context:

  • As part of a major effort to boost tourism in the Northeast, eight states account for 15 of the 50 places chosen countrywide for destination management.
  • The goal of the initiative is to broaden the range of tourism experiences and draw tourists to lesser-known Northeastern locations.

Selected Destinations:

  • As for the selected locations:
    • Jorhat and Kokrajhar are from Assam,
    • Moirang (Bishnupur) is from Manipur,
    • Shillong and Sohra are from Meghalaya, and
    • Nacho and Mechuka are from Arunachal Pradesh.
    • Aizawl and Champhai represent Mizoram,
    • Niuland and Chumukedima represent Nagaland,
    • Gangtok and Gyalshing represent Sikkim, and
    • Agartala and Unakoti are chosen to represent Tripura.

The Union Secretary of Tourism emphasised that in order to improve the entire tourism experience, these sectors will receive targeted attention.

Swadesh Darshan 2.0 Scheme:

  • The introduction of the Swadesh Darshan 2.0 (SD2.0) scheme by the Ministry of Tourism in 2022–2023 signified a revision in destination development strategy.
  • By using a destination-centric strategy, SD2.0 seeks to promote ethical and sustainable travel.
  • The plan calls for cooperative efforts between the Union Territories (UTs) and state governments to identify and develop tourism sites while consulting local stakeholders.

Focus on Northeastern States:

  • Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura are among the states included, which highlights the government’s dedication to promoting the Northeast’s rich cultural and natural legacy.
  • The choice is anticipated to give visitors distinctive and genuine experiences in the area while also assisting in the economic development of these states.

10. Haemoglobin Found in Epidermis

Topic: GS3- Science and Tech

Context:

  • Researchers have discovered that haemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that binds oxygen, is also present in the epidermis, our skin’s outermost bodily tissue.

Details

Epidermis Overview:

Location and Structure:

  • The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin, positioned above the dermis.
  • It is primarily composed of stratified layers of cells called keratinocytes.
  • These cells undergo a process called keratinization, producing the tough protein keratin that contributes to the skin’s strength and waterproofing.

Layers of the Epidermis:

The epidermis consists of several distinct layers, including:

  • Stratum Corneum: The outermost layer, composed of dead, flattened keratinocytes that form a protective barrier against the external environment.
  • Stratum Lucidum: Present in thick skin areas (such as palms and soles), consisting of clear, flattened cells.
  • Stratum Granulosum: Cells here begin to lose their nuclei and produce keratin.
  • Stratum Spinosum: Comprised of several layers of living keratinocytes.
  • Stratum Basale (Basal Layer): The deepest layer where new cells (keratinocytes) are formed through cell division. Melanocytes, responsible for skin pigmentation, are also found here.

Functions of the Epidermis:

  • Barrier Function: It acts as a barrier against pathogens, UV radiation, chemicals, and dehydration.
  • Protection: Prevents loss of bodily fluids and protects against mechanical damage.
  • Sensory Perception: Contains nerve endings for detecting touch, pressure, temperature, and pain.
  • Regeneration: Constantly renews itself through a process called epidermal turnover, where older cells shed and new cells move upward to replace them.

Cell Types and Specialized Cells:

  • Keratinocytes: Predominant cells that produce keratin, contributing to skin strength.
  • Melanocytes: Cells that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color and UV protection.
  • Langerhans Cells: Immune cells that help in recognizing and alerting the immune system to potential threats.
  • Merkel Cells: Responsible for tactile sensation and found in touch-sensitive areas.

Role in Skin Health and Disorders:

  • Various skin conditions and diseases, such as eczema, psoriasis, and skin cancer, can affect the epidermis.
  • Disorders may arise due to issues in cell proliferation, differentiation, or barrier function. 

Regulation and Maintenance:

  • The epidermis is influenced by various factors, including hormonal changes, nutrition, environmental exposure, and genetics.
  • Proper skincare, hydration, and protection against UV rays are essential for maintaining healthy epidermal function.

Study Findings

  • Presence of Haemoglobin: Haemoglobin, a protein primarily found in red blood cells, was unexpectedly discovered in the epidermis, specifically in keratinocytes and hair follicles.
  • Objective: The study aimed to understand how the epidermis protects the body and aimed to identify unexpected substances expressed within this protective skin layer.
  • Significance of Discovery: The presence of haemoglobin in epidermal cells adds a new dimension to comprehending the skin’s defense mechanisms.
  • Protective Role: Haemoglobin, known for its ability to bind gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as being an iron carrier, is suggested to potentially exhibit antioxidant activity and contribute to maintaining the skin barrier.

Research Methods and Analysis

  • Transcriptome Analysis: Researchers conducted a comparative transcriptome analysis of both the entire epidermis and its upper layers, revealing heightened activity of genes responsible for producing haemoglobin in the upper epidermis.
  • Response to Oxidative Stress: The study found that epidermal haemoglobin increased in response to oxidative stress. It was observed to inhibit the production of reactive oxygen species in human keratinocyte cell cultures.

Implications

  • Protective Mechanisms: Haemoglobin expression by keratinocytes appears to serve as an inherent defense mechanism against skin aging and possibly skin cancer. It seems to protect against oxidative stress from external sources like UV rays and internal factors such as impaired mitochondrial function.
  • Skin Health Implications: The findings offer insights into potential strategies for skincare and health interventions that leverage the protective properties of epidermal haemoglobin.

Conclusion

  • The study’s discovery of haemoglobin in the epidermis unveils its potential role in skin protection, highlighting its significance in understanding skin defense mechanisms and suggesting avenues for future research in skincare and health treatments.

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