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Daily Current Affairs

28-December-2023

1. NGT court takes suo motu cognisance of T.N. gas leak.

Topic: GS2 – Polity- Statutory Bodies.
Critical for UPSC: Examines environmental hazards, regulatory response, and public health impact, assessing legal and governance dimensions.
Context:
  • The NGT’s southern bench takes suo motu cognizance of an ammonia gas leak from Coromandel International Limited in Ennore, causing health issues.
  • The NGT instructs TNPCB to report on the incident, with a hearing scheduled for January 2.
About National Green Tribunal:
  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) is a specialized judicial body in India dedicated to handling environmental disputes and enforcing environmental laws.
  • Established on October 18, 2010, under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.
  • The tribunal’s principal bench is in New Delhi, with regional benches located in various parts of the country.
  • The NGT has jurisdiction over matters related to environmental protection, conservation of natural resources, and the prevention and control of environmental pollution.
  • It hears cases involving violations of environmental laws and provides a forum for the resolution of disputes.
  • The tribunal’s decisions are binding and aim to ensure swift and effective environmental justice.
  • NGT plays a crucial role in promoting sustainable development and environmental conservation in India.
Practice Question: Examine the role of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in India’s environmental governance and its impact on addressing environmental challenges. Provide examples to illustrate its effectiveness in ensuring compliance with environmental laws and promoting sustainable development. (250 words/15 m)

2. Will SLIM revolutionise lunar landings?

Topic: GS3 – Science and technology – Developing new technology – Space
Crucial for UPSC as it assesses Japan’s SLIM mission, influencing India’s lunar exploration (Chandrayaan-4) and global space cooperation – can be important from prelims perspective.
Context:
  • Japan’s SLIM spacecraft, aiming for a precise moon landing on January 19, will impact India’s Chandrayaan-4.
  • SLIM’s success tests crucial technologies for lunar exploration, influencing the collaborative venture between India and Japan in 2026.
SLIM’s Journey and Characteristics:
  • Launched by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on September 7, 2023, from Tanegashima spaceport.
  • Weighs 590 kg at launch, significantly lighter than Chandrayaan-3 (3,900 kg).
  • Entered an elliptical orbit around the moon on December 25, with apogee at 4,000 km and perigee at 600 km.
SLIM’s Route to the Moon:
  • Followed a fuel-thrifty route based on weak-stability boundary theory, taking four months to reach the moon.
  • Utilized kinetic energy buildup during multiple orbits around Earth, following a longer trajectory.
 Unique Landing Attempt and Lunar Exploration:
  • Dubbed the “moon sniper,” SLIM aims to land within 100 meters of its chosen site on January 19.
  • Plans to deploy two small rovers, LEV-1 and LEV-2, to study lunar surface, collect temperature and radiation readings, and explore the moon’s mantle.
Significance for Chandrayaan-4 (LUPEX):
  • Chandrayaan-4, part of India’s lunar exploration program, scheduled for an earliest launch in 2026.
  • Joint venture with Japan (LUPEX mission) to explore areas closer to the moon’s south pole.
  • SLIM’s technologies, including a feature-matching algorithm and navigation systems, crucial for Chandrayaan-4’s precise landing in challenging lunar terrain.
  • Demonstrates the importance of SLIM’s success for India and Japan’s collaborative lunar exploration endeavors,
PYQ: India has achieved remarkable successes in unmanned space missions including the Chandrayaan and Mars Orbiter Mission, but has not ventured into manned space mission, both in terms of technology and logistics? Explain critically. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017) (250 words/15 m)
Practice Question: How does the success of Japan’s SLIM mission impact India’s lunar exploration plans, particularly in the context of Chandrayaan-4? Discuss. (150 words/10 m)

3. ‘Not judiciary’s job to strengthen or weaken govt. or Opposition’

Topic: GS2 – Polity- Judiciary Relevant for UPSC as it explores judicial dynamics, case delays, and the NJAC, addressing constitutional principles and governance.
Context:
  • The article features insights from retired Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, discussing the judiciary’s role, concerns about potential alignment with the government, delays in crucial cases, challenges in the listing system, the need for a modified NJAC, and the balance between the judiciary and the executive.
Judiciary’s Role and Political Dynamics:
  • Retired Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul underscores the judiciary’s constitutional protection, urging judges to be bold.
  • Expresses concerns about potential perceptions that the judiciary is indirectly supporting the government by certain actions.
Case Delays and Prioritization:
  • Highlights delays in crucial cases such as Article 370, electoral bonds, and demonetization.
  • Attributes delays to factors like differing lawyer perceptions and the Chief Justice of India’s prerogative in deciding case priorities.
Listing System Challenges:
  • Discusses challenges in the listing system, mentioning part-heard cases being shifted between benches.
  • Points out the difference in operational dynamics between High Courts and the Supreme Court, where the latter is more Registry-centric.
National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC):
  • Advocates for a modified NJAC to address concerns, suggesting it could have been adjusted rather than entirely quashed.
  • Calls for increased transparency in the dialogue between the judiciary and the government regarding judicial appointments.
Judiciary-Executive Balance:
  • Explores historical pushbacks against the judiciary during periods of majority governments.
  • Stresses the judiciary’s crucial role as a constitutional check and balance, especially during times of potential executive overreach.
Pendency and Regional Benches:
  • Acknowledges the Supreme Court’s reluctance to establish regional benches, citing concerns about the unitary character.
  • Considers the virtual court system as a solution for improved access to justice but suggests innovative solutions to address the issue of overworked judges and high pendency.
PYQ: Critically examine the Supreme Court’s judgement on ‘National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014’ with reference to appointment of judges of higher judiciary in India. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2017) (150 words/10 m)

4. How PM JANMAN can help Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of Sustainable Livelihoods for PVTGs and Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population
Context:
  • The Pradhan Mantri Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan (PMJANMAN), a scheme intended to alleviate the developmental obstacles faced by Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in India, was authorised by the Union Cabinet on November 29.
  • The essential amenities that this effort seeks to provide include housing, hygienic conditions, clean drinking water, education, healthcare, and chances for sustainable livelihood.
Who are PVTGs?
  • In 1960–1961 they were classified as Primitive Tribal Groups (PTG), but in 2006 they were renamed Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).
  • At present, there are 75 officially acknowledged PVTGs, found in 22,544 villages in 18 states and one Union Territory.
  • These communities confront difficulties because of their pre-agricultural lifestyles, low literacy rates, tiny numbers, and subsistence economies.
  • They are found in areas like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.
Development Challenges:
  • Because of their remote location, small population, and distinctive socioeconomic and cultural characteristics, PVTGs experience extreme marginalisation.
  • Their difficulties are made worse by social discrimination, a lack of access to essential services, vulnerability to displacement, underrepresentation in politics, and threats to conventional occupations.
  • Current initiatives, such the Pradhan Mantri Janjatiya Vikas Mission and PVTG Development Plan, are confronted with implementation issues such as uneven treatment of various PVTG groups and resource constraints.
PM-JANMAN’s Unique Approach: In order to rectify the flaws of earlier attempts, PM-JANMAN offers significant changes:
  • Proper Identification and Recognition: The scheme attempts to address the out-of-date criteria for identifying PVTGs. To improve target development planning, baseline surveys and a Human Development Index for PVTGs are introduced.
  • Participatory Bottom-Up Approach: PM-JANMAN uses tailored techniques instead of a one-size-fits-all strategy. In addition to addressing land rights, social inclusion, and cultural preservation, it actively involves PVTGs in decision-making.
  • Livelihood Promotion: In order to gain access to forest resources, the initiative focuses on offering land titles, resources, and skill development in accordance with the Forest Rights Act. Sustainable development is aided by collaborations with the sector that support traditional technologies and skill development.
  • Health, Nutrition, and Education: Particular tactics are highlighted, such as cooperation with traditional healers, customised outreach for health issues, and mobile medical health units. The integration of culture and language into the curriculum, transportation, and employee incentives in PVTG areas are emphasised in the field of education.
  • Infrastructure Development: The concept utilises a tola-based (habitation) strategy for development planning and softens requirements for infrastructure schemes in recognition of the particular constraints faced by PVTG habitations.
Conclusion:
  • The comprehensive project known as Pradhan Mantri Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan (PMJANMAN) is designed to meet the unique requirements and challenges encountered by Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in India.
  • The programme seeks to improve the lives of these marginalised communities by utilising a participatory, customised, and comprehensive strategy that promotes sustainable development and cultural preservation.
Additional Information about Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)
  • In 1973, the Dhebar Commission established Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a distinct category, encompassing tribal communities characterized by a declining or stagnant population, the use of pre-agrarian technology, economic backwardness, and low literacy.
  • These groups are identified as less developed among the tribal communities.
  •  In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as PVTGs. They reside in remote and inaccessible areas, facing challenges due to poor infrastructure and administrative support.
  • There are 75 PVTG communities spread across 18 States and Union Territories in India.
  • Odisha has the highest number of PVTGs (15), followed by Andhra Pradesh (12), Bihar and Jharkhand (9), Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (7), Tamil Nadu (6), and Kerala and Gujarat (5 each).
  • The rest of the communities are spread across Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Tripura, and Manipur.
  • All four tribal groups in the Andaman and one in the Nicobar Islands are recognized as PVTGs.
PYQ: What are the two major legal initiatives by the State since Independence, addressing discrimination against Scheduled Tribes (STs)? (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2017)
Practice Question: How does the Pradhan Mantri Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan (PMJANMAN) address the unique developmental challenges faced by Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in India? (150 words/10 m)

5. PM-Kisan beneficiaries dwindling, Govt adds 34 lakh in special drive

Topic: GS2– Governance – Government Policies – Interventions for development in various sectors.
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of government schemes and their implementation.
Context:
  • The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) initiative has seen a sharp decline in beneficiaries, from a peak of 10.47 crores in April-July 2022 to 8.12 crores in the most recent period—a decrease of more than 20 percent.
  • Six months before the Lok Sabha elections, on November 15, the government began a “saturation drive” named Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra in response to this reduction.
  • The goal of the campaign is to guarantee that all eligible beneficiaries are covered by a number of flagship initiatives.
Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra and Inclusion of Farmers:
  • The Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra is an important effort to counter the decline in PM-Kisan recipients.
  • It takes place from November 15 to January 26.
  • In the most recent round of PM-Kisan payments, which ended on November 15, 8.12 crore farmers received Rs 2,000.
  • Additionally, 34 lakh farmers were added back to the list of beneficiaries as part of the saturation effort.
  • With 8.50 lakh freshly enrolled farmers, Uttar Pradesh is in first place, followed by Rajasthan, Manipur, Jharkhand, and Maharashtra.
Expected Impact on Beneficiary Numbers:
  • According to sources in the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, by the time the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra concludes in January 2024, the total number of PM-Kisan beneficiaries is expected to reach 8.75 crores.
  • The goal is to find and include eligible, vulnerable farmers who have not yet benefited from the programme.
Background on Decline and Government Response:
  • Concern has been raised over the PM-Kisan beneficiary drop, which hit a 3-year low in August through November of this year.
  • The programme, which debuted in February 2019, peaked in April–July 2022 at 10.47 crores.
  • Funds were also disbursed less frequently, falling from Rs 67,121 crores in 2021–2022 to Rs 58,258 crores in 2022–2023 annually.
  • The decrease in agricultural output has been attributed by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to the implementation of compulsory land planting and Aadhaar connection for farmers.
Conclusion:
  • There is hope for reversing the downward trend and reaching the desired beneficiary count due to the government’s coordinated efforts through the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra and the addition of 34 lakh farmers to the PM-Kisan beneficiary list.
  • The government is still focused on resolving issues and making sure that rewards are distributed to qualified farmers in a seamless manner while it awaits the final installment for the current fiscal year.
About Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra
  •  It is a government initiative aimed at raising awareness about and monitoring the implementation of various flagship central schemes across India. These schemes include Ayushman Bharat, Ujjwala Yojana, PM Suraksha Bima, PM SVANidhi, and others.
  • The program is a collaborative effort involving various Union ministries and state governments.
  • It was flagged off by the Prime Minister on December 16, with the initial launch in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram—states where recent Assembly polls were held.
  • The Yatra had started earlier in other states but was delayed in these five states due to the Model Code of Conduct being in place before the elections.
  • The Yatra began on November 15 from Khunti, Jharkhand. In just one month, it reached over 2.50 crore citizens across 68,000 Gram Panchayats in the country. 
PYQ: Given the vulnerability of Indian agriculture to vagaries of nature, discuss the need for crop insurance and bring out the salient features of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2016)
Practice Question: Discuss the measures needed to ensure the sustained success and inclusivity of agricultural support schemes in India. (150 words/10 m)

6. Government Bans Masarat Alam Faction of J&K Muslim League, Declares Unlawful Activities under UAPA

Topic: GS3 – Internal Security 
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of challenges posed by various radical organizations. 
Context:
  • Under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Ministry of Home Affairs has placed a five-year ban on the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim League’s Masarat Alam faction.
  • Separatist leader Masarat Alam Bhat is the leader of the Hurriyat’s Geelani faction as well as the J&K Muslim League.
Government’s Assertion:
  • The Muslim League Jammu Kashmir (Masarat Alam faction) was deemed a “Unlawful Association” under the UAPA by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in a statement.
  • He stressed that the group and its members are inciting people to impose Islamic rule in the area, sponsoring terrorism, and engaging in anti-national and separatist activities in J&K.
  • Shah made it very evident that anyone acting in opposition to the country’s integrity, unity, and sovereignty would be subject to the full weight of the law.
Gazette Notification and Objectives of MLJK-MA:
  • The MLJK-MA has a reputation for spreading misinformation that is both pro-Pakistani and anti-Indian, according to a gazette notification.
  • The goal of the organisation is stated as being to free Jammu and Kashmir from India so that it can combine with Pakistan and become the centre of Islamic control in the area.
  • The notification highlighted the group’s fundraising operations for illegal actions, including as funding terrorist acts and stone-throwing at security personnel in Jammu and Kashmir, including help from Pakistan and its agents.
Government’s Concerns and Intent:
  • According to the Central government, the Muslim League Jammu Kashmir (Masarat Alam faction) may probably take advantage of the occasion to continue its anti-national actions if its illegal operations are not immediately stopped.
  • The nation’s sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity are all thought to be negatively impacted by these actions.
  • In order to sow discord against India and disturb public order, the notice stated the group’s goals to support Jammu and Kashmir’s secession, contest its entry into the Union of India, and spread false information and anti-national sentiments.
Conclusion:
  • The government’s resolve to halting actions seen to pose a threat to national security is demonstrated by the UAPA’s ban on the Masarat Alam faction.
  • The announcement lists the group’s goals and claims that it has engaged in actions that compromise Jammu and Kashmir’s integrity.
  • The government’s clear-cut position indicates that it is determined to take strong action against individuals who are undermining the country’s unity and sovereignty.
What is Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)?
  • It was first enacted in 1967 to deal with secessionist movements and anti-national activities.
  • It was amended several times, most recently in 2019, to include provisions related to terrorist financing, cyber-terrorism, individual designation, and seizure of property.
  • It empowers the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate and prosecute cases under UAPA across the country.
  • It provides for the death penalty and life imprisonment as the highest punishments for terrorist acts.
  •  It allows for the detention of suspects without charge or trial for up to 180 days, and for the denial of bail to the accused unless the court is satisfied that they are not guilty.
  • It defines unlawful activity as any action that supports or incites the cession or secession of any part of India, or that questions or disrespects its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • It defines terrorism as any act that causes or intends to cause death or injury to any person, or damage or destruction to any property, or that threatens the unity, security or economic stability of India or any other country.
PYQ: The Indian government has recently strengthened the anti-terrorism laws by amending the unlawful activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967 and the NIA Act. Analyze the changes in the context of prevailing security environment while discussing the scope and reasons for opposing the UAPA by human rights organizations. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2019)
Practice Question: Analyze the effectiveness of banning radical organizations in addressing security concerns and maintaining territorial integrity, considering both the legal and socio-political dimensions. (150 words/10 m)

7. Rs 5,500-cr projects for Bihar, NE get Cabinet nod

Topic: GS2 – Governance, GS3- Infrastructure
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of economic and regional development.
Context:
  • In a major step towards the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the Union Cabinet authorised infrastructure projects worth over Rs 5,500 crore in Bihar and the Northeast.
  • At an estimated cost of Rs 3,064.45 crore, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved the construction of a 4.56 km, six-lane bridge over the Ganga that will connect Digha and Sonepur in Bihar.
  • Anurag Thakur, the minister of information and broadcasting, emphasised that the new bridge would improve Bihar’s north-south link and make it possible to carry large vehicles.
  • The new rail-cum-road bridge connecting Digha and Sonepur seeks to alleviate the economic bottleneck caused by the present bridge’s limited vehicle usage for light vehicles.
Impact on Economic Potential:
  • The CCEA highlighted that the new Ganga bridge would remove obstacles to the transportation of commodities, so unlocking the region’s economic potential.
  • This is especially important for improving access to Buddhist pilgrimage centres such as Vaishali.
  • It is anticipated that the project will be finished in around 42 months.
Improving Connectivity in Tripura:
  • A project worth Rs 2,486.78 crore was also approved by the CCEA with the goal of enlarging and enhancing a 135-kilometer section of the national highway in Tripura that runs from Khowai to Harina.
  • Thakur emphasised that this approach will cut the journey time in half and the distance by 28 km.
  • The project is anticipated to improve connectivity both within the state and between Tripura and Assam, with a loan component of Rs 1,511.70 crore from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
  • It is expected that the expanded road network will promote land border trade and general socioeconomic growth, particularly close to the border with Bangladesh.
Conclusion:
  • Infrastructure projects approved by the Union Cabinet demonstrate the government’s dedication to promoting growth in the economy and improving connectivity.
  • Strategically positioned to alleviate regional economic restrictions and enable better trade and travel, these initiatives especially the highway project in Tripura and the Ganga bridge contribute to overall socio-economic growth.
What are the Related Initiatives taken?
PM Gati Shakti Scheme:
  • In the next four years, it seeks to guarantee integrated planning and execution of infrastructure projects, with an emphasis on accelerating on-the-ground work, cutting expenses, and generating employment.
Bharatmala scheme:
  • In 2022, India saw a major push in construction of highways with more than 5000 kms of National Highways constructed.
  • Targeted development of highways under the Bharatmala scheme has helped in bridging of infrastructure gaps in development of economic corridors
PYQ: Investment in infrastructure is essential for a more rapid and inclusive economic growth. Discuss in the light of India’s experience. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2021)
Practice Question: Evaluate the potential socio-economic impact of infrastructure projects, their role in fostering regional connectivity, and their implications for inclusive development. (150 words/10 m)

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