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Daily Current Affairs

29-January-2024

1. Delhi High Court Upholds Constitutionality of Hindu Marriage Act's Sapinda Marriage Prohibition, Citing Incestuous Concerns

Topic: GS1 – Society – Salient features of Indian Society
GS2 – Polity This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of constitutional aspects related to personal laws and marriages in India
Context:
  • Recently, the Delhi High Court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5(v) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA), which prohibits marriage between Hindus if they are “sapindas” of each other.
More about the news: About Sapinda Marriage:
  • A sapinda marriage is one between individuals who are related to each other within a certain degree of closeness. 
  • Under the HMA, marriage is prohibited within certain generations on both the mother’s and father’s sides.
    • Mother’s Side: Marriage is forbidden within three generations.
      • Sibling (first generation), their parents (second generation), their grandparents (third generation)
    • Father’s Side: It extends to five generations.
      • This prohibition would extend up to their grandparents’ grandparent,
  • Sapinda relationships for the purposes of the HMA are defined in Section 3 of the Act.
Prohibition Criteria
  • Marriage Voidance
  • If a marriage violates Section 5(v) of the HMA by being a sapinda marriage without an established custom permitting it, it is deemed void.
  • This means the marriage is considered invalid and treated as if it never occurred.
Exception to Prohibition
  • The Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) provides an exception to the prohibition against sapinda marriages.
  • This exception applies when the customs of each individual involved permit such marriages.
  • Criteria for Custom
    • According to Section 3(a) of the HMA, a custom must be continuously and uniformly observed for an extended period to gain legitimacy.
    • It should have the force of law among Hindus in a local area, tribe, group, or family.
  • Conditions for Valid Custom
    • For a custom to be valid, it must be certain, not unreasonable, and in line with public policy. Additionally, if the custom applies only to a specific family, it should not have been discontinued by that family.
Conclusion:
  • The Delhi High Court’s decision reaffirms the importance of established customs in sapinda marriages, highlighting the need for stringent proof.
  • The court’s acknowledgement of the regulation of marital choices reflects concerns about potential societal implications.
  • Comparatively, laws on incestuous relationships vary globally, influenced by cultural and legal factors.
Status of Sapinda marriage in other countries
  • In various European countries, including France, Belgium, Portugal, and Italy, laws on incestuous relationships are less strict than in India.
  • France abolished the crime of incest in 1810, while Belgium retained it even after introducing a new Penal Code in 1867.
  • Portuguese law doesn’t criminalize incest.
  • In the Republic of Ireland, laws on incest have not been updated post the recognition of same-sex marriages in 2015.
  • Italy considers incest a crime only if it causes a “public scandal.”
  • In the United States, incestuous marriages are banned in all states except New Jersey and Rhode Island.
PYQ: Do you think marriage as a sacrament is losing its value in Modern India? (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2023)
Practice Question:  When a religious practice encourages or mandates specific marriage customs that clash with secular legal frameworks, such as child marriages or arranged marriages, how can the state balance upholding individual religious freedom and protecting vulnerable individuals while maintaining societal cohesion and upholding human rights? (250 words/15 m)

2. Shift in Economic Approach: Modi 2.0 Witnesses Resurgence in Subsidies and Transfers After Modi 1.0's 'New Welfarism

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors
GS3 – Indian EconomyIssues related to Direct & indirect farm subsidies This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of subsidies, transfers, and the government’s economic decisions.
Context:
  • The article discusses the transition in the Indian government’s economic policies from Narendra Modi’s first term (Modi 1.0) to the second term (Modi 2.0).
More about the news: Modi 1.0: New Welfarism and Subsidy Reduction:
  • During Narendra Modi’s first term (2014-15 to 2018-19), the government launched various schemes aimed at ensuring universal access to essential goods and services, such as housing, toilets, water, bank accounts, electricity, and cooking gas.
  • While public funding for these privately provided services increased, the subsidy bill, particularly for food, fertilizers, and fuel, decreased both in absolute terms and relative to GDP.
Modi 2.0: Reversal of Trends:
  • In contrast, Modi’s second term has witnessed a shift in this trend. The subsidy bill, including major subsidies and transfers like MNREGA and PM-Kisan, surged from 1% of GDP in 2018-19 to 3.6% in 2020-21.
  • Though it has slightly decreased in subsequent years, it remains higher than the levels during the beginning of Modi’s second term.
Drivers of Modi 1.0 Subsidy Reduction:
  • During the first term, lower international oil and fertilizer prices played a crucial role in reducing the subsidy bill.
  • The government strategically did not pass on the full benefit of lower global prices to consumers, using the excess to raise excise duties on fuel products.
  • Additionally, gains from lower fertilizer costs were retained by the government rather than being passed on to farmers.
Drivers of Modi 2.0 Subsidy Surge:
  • Two key drivers in Modi’s second term include a policy decision to fully fund food and fertilizer subsidies and the economic impacts of COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war.
  • The government’s decision to fully fund the gap between the Food Corporation of India’s economic cost and the average issue price resulted in a spike in the subsidy tab in 2020-21.
  • The pandemic-induced economic distress led to increased off-take of rice and wheat through the public distribution system (PDS), while MNREGA spending reached all-time highs.
Application of Quantum Technologies:
  • Pre-proposals are expected to demonstrate the practical application of quantum technologies, showcasing advancements in Quantum Science and Technology.
Future Outlook:
  • The maximum retail price of urea and the PDS issue prices for wheat and rice have remained unchanged for years.
  • While economists advocate for targeted Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) or income support payments over subsidies, any rationalization of subsidies may have to wait for the next government.
  • The Interim Budget for 2024-25 is unlikely to alter current prices, but an increase in the PM-Kisan scheme’s direct benefit transfer could be on the horizon.
PYQ: With reference to chemical fertilizers in India, consider the following statements: (2020) 1) At present, the retail price of chemical fertilizers is market-driven and not administered by the Government. 2) Ammonia, which is an input of urea, is produced from natural gas. 3) Sulphur, which is a raw material for phosphoric acid fertilizer, is a by-product of oil refineries. Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (a) 1 only (b) 2 and 3 only (c) 2 only (d) 1, 2 and 3 Ans: (b)
Practice Question:  Assess the implications of subsidy policies on fiscal management and the overall economic well-being of the country. Additionally, discuss the challenges and opportunities posed by the current subsidy dynamics and suggest potential policy measures for sustainable economic growth. (250 words/15 m)

3. Odisha to Launch Melanistic Tiger Safari near Similipal for Conservation and Awareness

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Conservations
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of efforts by the Odisha government to promote biodiversity conservation, especially the conservation of melanistic tigers.
Context:
  • Odisha’s Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, has announced plans for a melanistic tiger safari near the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR), with in-principle approval from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
  • The safari is expected to open to visitors by October this year.
More about the news: Melanism in Tigers:
  • Melanism, a genetic condition causing increased melanin production, results in black or nearly black skin, feathers, or hair.
  • In Similipal, many royal Bengal tigers belong to a unique lineage with higher-than-normal melanin levels, giving them black and yellow interspersed stripes, described as pseudo-melanistic.
Genetic Basis and Isolation:
  • Research coauthored by Uma Ramakrishnan and Vinay Sagar indicates a single mutation in the gene Transmembrane Aminopeptidase Q (Taqpep) causes the unique coloration in Similipal’s tigers.
  • Genetic analyses suggest the pseudo-melanistic tigers may have arisen from a small founding population and are inbred due to genetic isolation within STR.
Melanistic Tiger Population:
  • As per the 2022 All India Tiger Estimation, Similipal recorded 16 tigers, with 10 being melanistic.
  • However, ongoing tiger surveys by the state government suggest a potentially higher number of royal Bengal tigers in STR, challenging the previously mentioned figures.
Odisha’s Safari Plan:
  • Odisha plans to establish the melanistic tiger safari on approximately 200 hectares of land along the Dhanbad-Balasore National Highway-18, around 15 km from STR.
  • The display area will cover 100 hectares, while the remaining space will house veterinary care facilities, including a rescue center and visitor amenities.
  • Initially, three melanistic tigers from Nandankanan zoo and rescued/orphaned tigers will be housed in an open enclosure.
Conservation and Awareness:
  • The safari aims to facilitate close encounters with the rare melanistic tigers, fostering awareness about their conservation needs.
  • With the vast area of Similipal making tiger sightings challenging, the safari is positioned as an additional attraction to promote tourism and awareness for the conservation of these unique big cats.
About Melanistic tigers (black tigers)
  • They are a rare colour variant of the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris).
  • Unlike the typical orange coat with dark stripes, melanistic tigers have a dark black or nearly black coat with faint or almost invisible stripes.
  • This dark colouration is due to a genetic condition known as melanism, where there is an excessive development of dark pigmentation (melanin) in the skin and fur.
  • Melanistic tigers are not a separate subspecies but rather a colour morph within the Bengal tiger population.
  • A single mutation in the gene Transmembrane Aminopeptidase Q (Taqpep) causes the black tigers to develop broadened stripes.
PYQ: Among the following Tiger Reserves, which one has the largest area under “Critical Tiger Habitat”? (2020) (a) Corbett (b) Ranthambore (c) Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam (d) Sundarbans Ans: (c)
Practice Question:  Examine the significance of Odisha’s initiative to launch a melanistic tiger safari near Similipal in the context of biodiversity conservation and environmental awareness. (150 words/10 m)

4. Sarpanch in M.P. not allowed to unfurl flag; official sacked.

Topic: GS1 – Indian Society – Caste Discrimination
Addressing caste discrimination crucial for social justice, equality, and fulfilling constitutional ideals in UPSC’s perspective on India’s governance
Context:
  • In Madhya Pradesh’s Rajgarh district, a Panchayat Department employee was terminated for alleged caste-based discrimination after Sarpanch Man Singh Verma was prevented from unfurling the national flag on Republic Day.
What is in the news?
  • An employee of the Panchayat Department in Madhya Pradesh’s Rajgarh district has been terminated.
  • The termination follows an incident on Republic Day in Tarena village panchayat, where Sarpanch Man Singh Verma was not allowed to unfurl the national flag due to his caste.
  • Sarpanch Man Singh Verma claims the discrimination occurred because of his caste (Verma). The sarpanch faced discrimination for being a Dalit.
  • The incident highlights caste-based discrimination in the context of a Republic Day event in Madhya Pradesh.
Caste Discrimination in India: A Holistic Overview
Introduction:
  • Caste Discrimination in India remains a deeply rooted social issue, despite legal and societal efforts to eradicate it. Here’s a comprehensive look at the key aspects in bullet points:
Historical Context:
  • Caste system originated in ancient India, dividing society into four main varnas (castes) based on occupation.
  • Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, faced severe discrimination, with limited access to education, employment, and social opportunities.
Legal Framework:
  • Indian Constitution abolished untouchability and discrimination, ensuring equal rights for all citizens.
  • Various laws and acts, such as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, provide protection and prescribe penalties for offenses related to caste discrimination.
Contemporary Challenges:
  • Despite legal safeguards, caste discrimination persists in both rural and urban areas.
  • Dalits often face violence, social ostracism, and economic marginalization, affecting their overall development.
Educational Disparities:
  • Dalit students encounter discrimination in schools, leading to high dropout rates and limited access to quality education.
  • Affirmative action policies, such as reservation quotas, aim to address educational imbalances but face resistance and controversy.
Employment Disparities:
  • Dalits continue to experience discrimination in the workplace, limiting their career advancement and economic opportunities.
  • Affirmative action in the form of job reservations exists, but the implementation varies across sectors.
Social Stigma:
  • Inter-caste marriages often face societal opposition, perpetuating the rigid caste hierarchy.
  • Social ostracism and violence against Dalits who challenge traditional norms remain prevalent.
Efforts for Change:
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and activists work to raise awareness and advocate for equal rights.
  • Grassroots movements and campaigns seek to eradicate caste-based discrimination through education and social reforms.
Conclusion: Caste discrimination in India is a complex issue deeply embedded in the social fabric. While legal provisions exist, the challenge lies in changing societal attitudes and ensuring effective implementation to create a more inclusive and equitable society.
PYQ: Caste system is assuming new identities and associational forms. Hence, caste system cannot be eradicated in India.” Comment. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2018) (150 words/10m)
Practice Question: In the context of India, critically examine the contemporary challenges and societal implications of caste discrimination for effective governance. (250 words/15 m)

5. In a first, laughing gull spotted in India

Topic: GS3 – Environment and Ecology – Conservation – Important species
The Laughing Gull sighting in India enriches biodiversity, showcasing migratory patterns, essential for UPSC’s environmental and ecological awareness.
Context:
  • A Laughing Gull, a migratory bird from North America, was spotted for the first time in India at Kasaragod district’s Chittari estuary.
  • Birdwatcher C. Sreekanth’s sighting elevates India’s bird species count to 1,367.
Additional information on this news:
  • The Laughing Gull, a migratory bird native to North America, has been sighted for the first time in India at the Chittari estuary in Kasaragod district.
  • Birdwatcher and schoolteacher C. Sreekanth discovered and photographed the bird, known for its distinctive laughter-like calls.
  • The bird, identified by its dark upper part, black legs, long drooping bill, and a dark smudge on the back of the head, was confirmed as a Laughing Gull by birding experts.
  • The e-Bird application played a crucial role in disseminating this discovery.
  • This sighting increases the total number of bird species found in India to 1,367, with Kasaragod district contributing 400 species to the State’s count of 554.
More About The Laughing Gull
  • Scientific Name: Leucophaeus atricilla
  • Habitat: Coastal areas, beaches, marshes, and estuaries
  • IUCN Status: Least Concern (LC)
  • Distribution: Found in the Americas, breeding along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of North America.
  • Appearance: Black head & wings contrasting with white body in summer. Long, red beak (diagnostic). Loud, cackling call (hence the name).
  • Behavior: Highly social, often seen in large colonies. Agile fliers and adept at scavenging.
  • Diet: Opportunistic feeders, consuming fish, insects, crustaceans, and scavenging on refuse.
  • Breeding: Nests in colonies, laying eggs in shallow depressions lined with vegetation.
  • Migration: Migratory, with populations from North America wintering in South America.
  • Ecological Role: Plays a role in controlling insect populations and contributes to nutrient cycling in coastal ecosystems.

6. ‘Independence of judiciary rests on freedom of judges to decide without pressure’ - Chief Justice.

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – Judiciary
UPSC candidates should understand the Chief Justice’s remarks on judiciary independence, constitutional interpretation, and diversity’s importance for holistic preparation on governance and legal aspects.
Context:
  • Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud underscores the judiciary’s independence, emphasizing judges’ freedom from political and social pressures.
  • Speaking at a ceremony marking the Supreme Court’s diamond jubilee, he addresses training to eliminate biases and highlights the court’s strength in diversity.
More information on this news:
  • Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud emphasized the independence of the judiciary, reliant on individual judges’ freedom from political, social, and bias pressures.
  • Speaking at a Ceremonial Bench marking the Supreme Court’s diamond jubilee, he reflected on Chief Justice Kania’s principles: judiciary independence, dynamic Constitution interpretation, and citizens’ respect.
  • Chandrachud stressed that an independent judiciary involves judges functioning without social or political pressures and inherent biases.
  • Efforts are underway to train judges to overcome subconscious biases related to gender, disability, race, caste, and sexuality.
  • Responding to criticism of a “poly-vocal court,” Chandrachud argued that the Supreme Court’s strength lies in its diversity, fostering a synthesis of ideas and ensuring justice.
  • He acknowledged the problem of case pendency, calling for a radical change in decision-making within the court to prevent dysfunctionality.
Independence of Judiciary
Basic Structure of Indian Constitution:
  • Constitutional Guarantee: The independence of the judiciary is enshrined in the basic structure of the Indian Constitution.
  • Separation of Powers: Ensures a clear separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
Challenges to Independence:
  • Executive Influence: Pressure from the executive to influence judicial decisions.
  • Political Interference: Attempts to interfere in judicial appointments and transfers.
  • Delay in Justice Delivery: Backlogs and delays in the judicial system compromise its efficiency.
  • Resource Constraints: Inadequate infrastructure and resources affecting the judiciary’s functioning.
Way Forward:
  • Judicial Reforms: Implement reforms to enhance the efficiency and reduce backlog in the judicial system.
  • Transparency: Ensure transparent processes in the appointment and transfer of judges.
  • Strengthening Institutions: Strengthen institutions like the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) to maintain the independence of the judiciary.
  • Public Awareness: Raise public awareness about the importance of an independent judiciary and its role in upholding constitutional values.
  • International Best Practices: Learn from and adopt international best practices for judicial independence.
A robust and independent judiciary is crucial for upholding the rule of law and safeguarding citizens’ rights, making continuous efforts imperative for its preservation and enhancement.
PYQ: Constitutionally guaranteed judicial independence is a prerequisite of democracy. Comment. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2023)

7. INSAT-3DS satellite sent to launch port in Sriharikota.

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology – Achievements of Indian S&T
UPSC aspirants should grasp INSAT-3DS’s significance in bolstering India’s meteorological capabilities, disaster management, and global search and rescue efforts.
Context:
  • ISRO flags off INSAT-3DS meteorological satellite to Sriharikota.
  • User-funded, Ministry of Earth Sciences-backed, it aims to enhance INSAT system capabilities with advanced payloads for weather forecasting, disaster warning, and global search and rescue.
 Additional information on this news:
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announces the flagging off of INSAT-3DS satellite to the launch port at Sriharikota.
  • INSAT-3DS is a meteorological satellite aimed at enhancing capabilities and ensuring continuity of services.
  • The satellite, expected to launch next month on GSLV F14, underwent successful assembly and testing in Bengaluru.
  • User-funded and Ministry of Earth Sciences-supported, the satellite employs ISRO’s I-2k bus platform, weighing 2,275 kg.
  • Equipped with advanced payloads, including a six-channel imager, 19-channel sounder, communication payloads, and search and rescue transponder.
  • The data relay transponder (DRT) enhances weather forecasting by receiving meteorological and oceanographic data from automatic weather stations.
  • The satellite-aided search and rescue (SAS&R) transponder facilitates distress signal detection for global search and rescue services.
Weather Forecasting Satellites: Watching Over Our Skies
Introduction:
  • Weather forecasting satellites keep a constant eye on Earth’s ever-changing atmosphere.
  • These satellites provide crucial data that powers our weather predictions, helping us stay prepared for natural disasters.
Types of Satellites:
  • Geostationary: These satellites hover above the equator, constantly observing the same spot on Earth. They provide real-time updates on cloud cover, storm development, and other weather phenomena.
  • Polar-orbiting: These satellites circle the planet in low-altitude orbits, scanning the entire Earth every few hours. They capture detailed images of the entire globe, offering valuable insights into global weather patterns.
What they do:
  • Measure temperature and humidity: Satellites use various sensors to detect the Earth’s radiation, which reveals temperature and humidity levels. This data is crucial for predicting cloud formation, precipitation, and even tropical cyclones.
  • Track clouds and storms: Satellite imagery allows meteorologists to visualize cloud patterns, storm movements, and even lightning strikes. This information helps them predict storm tracks and issue timely warnings.
  • Monitor environmental changes: Weather satellites not only track weather, but also monitor environmental changes like snow cover, sea ice extent, and vegetation health. This data is vital for climate research and environmental monitoring.
Benefits:
  • Improved weather forecasts: Satellite data has revolutionized weather forecasting, leading to more accurate and timely predictions. This helps people and businesses make informed decisions and prepare for extreme weather events.
  • Disaster preparedness: Early warnings of storms, floods, and other natural disasters based on satellite data save lives and property.
  • Climate change monitoring: Long-term data from satellites helps us understand the impacts of climate change and track changes in global weather patterns.

8. What is end-to-end encryption and how does it secure information?

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology
From a UPSC perspective, understanding encryption is crucial for grasping cybersecurity, privacy issues, and technological advancements in governance.
Context:
  • The article discusses encryption, focusing on End-to-End (E2E) encryption.
  • It explains encryption basics, symmetric and asymmetric encryption, E2E in messaging apps, potential weaknesses like MITM attacks and device vulnerabilities, real-world examples, and the complex balance between user privacy and security.
 Encryption Basics:
  • Definition: Encryption is the process of transforming readable information into an unreadable form based on specific rules.
  • Key Role: Involves the use of keys, where a “key” is data that can unlock (decrypt) encrypted information.
Symmetric vs. Asymmetric Encryption:
  • Symmetric Encryption: Uses the same key for both encryption and decryption (e.g., Data Encryption Standard – DES, Advanced Encryption Standard – AES).
  • Asymmetric Encryption: Involves a pair of keys – a public key for encryption and a private key for decryption.
End-to-End (E2E) Encryption:
  • Definition: Protects information during transit and storage; decrypted only by the intended recipient.
  • Messaging App Scenario: Involves encryption both in transit (to and from the server) and at rest (while stored on the server).
 Potential Weaknesses and Challenges:
  • Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) Attacks: Attackers intercept keys to decrypt messages; mitigated by comparing fingerprints in a secure channel.
  • Device Vulnerabilities: Malware or hacking can compromise devices, allowing unauthorized access to messages before encryption.
  • Company Backdoors: Companies may install exceptions or backdoors for legal or illicit purposes, compromising the integrity of E2E encryption.
  • Metadata Surveillance: While E2E encrypts message content, metadata (e.g., message timing, recipients) may still be accessible for surveillance purposes.
Real-World Examples:
  • Skype Backdoor: Revealed in the Edward Snowden affair, Skype installed a backdoor, allowing access to E2E-encrypted messages for surveillance by security agencies.
  • Legal Mandates: Companies might be required by law to retain access to encrypted information for litigation or compliance purposes.
Conclusion:
  • Complex Landscape: E2E encryption provides strong protection, but vulnerabilities exist, including potential legal and illicit interventions.
  • Balancing Privacy and Security: Continuous efforts are needed to strike a balance between user privacy and the legitimate needs of security and law enforcement.

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