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3 Jan 2024 : Daily Current Affairs

1. India Prepares to Implement Citizenship (Amendment) Act Amidst Ongoing Controversy and Legal Challenges

Topic: GS2 –Polity- Govt. Policies and Interventions

This topic relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of issues associated with Citizenship Amendment Act. (2019)

Context:
  • In December 2019, the Indian Parliament enacted the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which aims to expedite Indian citizenship for specific religious groups.
  • However, it does not include Muslims who have fled religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Bangladesh.
  • After a protracted delay, the CAA’s implementation regulations are apparently now complete, and an online application portal has been established.

Implementation of CAA:

  • Government sources said that the CAA rules will be announced shortly, long before the Lok Sabha elections.
  • The entire implementation process will be conducted online, enabling candidates to submit their applications using mobile devices.
  • No further evidence is needed; applicants only need to disclose the year of entry into India without travel documents.
  • Over the previous two years, the administration sought several extensions to finish drafting these regulations.

Reasons for Delay:

  • Many reasons have been cited for the delay in the CAA’s implementation, including opposition in states like Assam and Tripura.
  • Concerns have been expressed in Assam regarding possible demographic shifts and probable violations of the 1985 Assam Accord, which establishes a deadline for giving citizenship.
  • With legal challenges challenging the CAA’s constitutionality at the Supreme Court, protests against it have expanded outside the Northeast.

Legal Challenges and Justifications:

  • The Indian Union Muslim League is among the petitioners who have contested the validity of the CAA on the grounds that it discriminates against some persecuted groups by excluding them.
  • In response, the government argues that the law is not intended to be a comprehensive answer for global challenges, but rather to target specific issues in neighbouring countries.
  • It defends the law as a focused modification meant to alleviate the discrimination against certain communities of Muslims in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Conclusion:

  • The government hopes to put the law into effect prior to the next Lok Sabha elections since the CAA rules seem ready for notification.
  • The rhetoric surrounding the contentious law is still being shaped by the ongoing judicial challenges and popular resistance, which emphasises the intricate interactions between religious considerations, demographic concerns, and constitutional objections.
Major Provisions of CAA 2019
  • Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities who fled the neighbouring Muslim-majority countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan before December 2014 because of “religious persecution or fear of religious persecution” are now eligible to apply for Indian citizenship under the 2019 Citizenship by Association Act (CAA), which amends the Citizenship Act of 1955.
  • However, the Act excludes Muslims.
  • The CAA 2019 amendment made citizenship available to migrants who arrived in India by December 31, 2014, and who had experienced “religious persecution or fear of religious persecution” in their country of origin.
  • In six years, these migrants will receive fast-track Indian citizenship. The residence requirement for these migrants to become naturalised was also loosened by the change, from eleven to five years.

Relaxations:

  • One of the conditions for obtaining citizenship by naturalisation under The Citizenship Act, 1955 is that the candidate must have lived in India for 11 of the preceding 14 years in addition to the recent 12 months.
  • As a special criterion for applicants from these six religions and the aforementioned three nations, the amendment lowers the second requirement from 11 years to 6 years.

Illegal migrant:

  • According to the Act, a foreign national who enters the nation without a valid passport or visa or who enters with a legitimate document but remains longer than allowed is considered an illegal migrant.

Exemptions:

  • It exempts the members of the six communities from any criminal case under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport Act, 1920. The two Acts specify punishment for entering the country illegally and staying here on expired visas and permits.

Sixth Schedule:

  • The States of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland that are protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP), as well as the tribal territories of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, or Tripura listed in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, are exempt from the Act’s restrictions.
  • Manipur was thereafter included in the list of States that were excluded. This implies that residents of the exempted areas will not be allowed to become “illegal” migrants who the Act will recognise as Indian citizens.
Practice Question: How is India navigating the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act amidst persistent opposition, legal challenges, and concerns over demographic changes. (200 words/12.5 m)

2. Another eye in sky, on ground: India is now part of world’s largest radio telescope project

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology- Space Technology

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of Scientific and Technological developments. 

Context:
  • India has joined the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO), an international mega-science project that aims to become the largest radio telescope in the world.
  • The proposal calls for the installation of thousands of antennas in isolated areas of Australia and South Africa, which will work together as a single, sizable unit.
  • India first became involved in SKA development in the 1990s, under the direction of the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) in Pune.

International Collaboration and Establishment of SKAO:

  • In order for a country to officially join SKAO, which was founded as an intergovernmental organisation in 2021, it must sign and ratify the SKAO convention.
  • With a financial sanction of Rs 1,250 crore, the Department of Atomic Energy declared in its 2023 year-ending statement that India has been approved to join the project.
  • The international efforts engaged in furthering radio astronomy are highlighted by this collaboration.

India’s Contribution to SKAO:

  • India’s primary contribution to SKAO is the construction and management of the Telescope Manager element, specifically the software that powers the telescope.
  • Leading an international team to develop this vital software was a major responsibility of NCRA, which runs the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), the largest network of radio telescopes in India.

GMRT’s Significance and Recognition:

  • Operating in the 110-1,460 MegaHertz frequency range, GMRT is the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world.
  • India’s reputation in radio astronomy has grown as a result of its accomplishments in the study of pulsars, supernovae, quasars, galaxies, and other celestial phenomena.
  • GMRT’s noteworthy contributions to scientific understanding were recognised in 2021 when it was awarded the esteemed Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Milestone facility recognition.

Advancing Gravitational Wave Research:

  • In addition to searching for gravitational waves—a sector to which the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) has made major contributions—the SKA will probe farther into the universe and conduct more thorough studies of stars and galaxies.
  • The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for the first gravitational wave detection by LIGO serves as proof that gravitational wave research is regarded as a promising field of study.

SKA-India Consortium and Participating Countries:

  • Engineers and scientists from more than 20 national-level research institutes, including NCRA, the Aryabhatta Institute of Observational Sciences, several IITs, and research labs, are part of the SKA-India partnership.
  • A number of nations, including the UK, Australia, South Africa, Canada, China, France, India, Italy, and Germany, are actively involved in the building of the SKA, demonstrating the international scope of this massive scientific project.
About GMRT
About:
  • The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) is a collection of thirty 45-meter-diameter fully steerable parabolic radio telescopes that see at metre wavelengths. This low-frequency radio observatory is among the biggest and most accurate in the entire globe.

Location:

  • It is located about 80 km north of Pune at Khodad.

Genesis:

  • The GMRT was designed in the late 1980s, constructed and put into service in the 1990s, and made available to the world’s astronomy community for usage in 2002.

Aim:

  • To determine the epoch of galaxy formation in the universe.

Usage:

  • This telescope is regularly used by astronomers worldwide to examine a wide variety of celestial objects, including the Sun, solar winds, pulsars, galaxies, HII regions, and supernovae.
  • Contribution: GMRT was a trailblazer in the fields of optical fibre signal transfer, receiver systems, and antenna design. In fields including pulsars, supernovae, galaxies, quasars, and cosmology, GMRT has yielded significant findings that have substantially expanded our knowledge of the universe.

Recent Finding:

  • It aided in the observation of the Ophiuchus Supercluster explosion, the largest explosion in the history of the universe, which occurred in February 2020.
PYQ: Launched on 25th December, 2021, James Webb Space Telescope has been much in the news since then. What are its unique features which make it superior to its predecessor Space Telescopes? What are the key goals of this mission? What potential benefits does it hold for the human race? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022)
Practice Question: Discuss India’s participation in the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) and its significance in the context of global scientific collaborations and advancements in radio astronomy. (250 words/15 m)

3. Govt plans to end Free Movement Regime along international border with Myanmar

Topic: GS2 – International Relations– India and its neighbourhood 

GS3 – Internal Security – Security challenges and their management in border areas

This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of Indo- Myanmar relations and issues related to India’s internal security 

Context:
  • According to official sources, the Free Movement Regime (FMR), which permits people on both sides of the border between India and Myanmar to enter each other’s country for up to 16 kilometres without a visa, is about to end.
  • The move coincides with the Center’s intention to start the bidding process for the installation of a cutting-edge smart fencing system along the whole border between India and Myanmar.
  • Within the following four and a half years, the fencing project intends to replace the FMR, requiring people to obtain visas in order to travel across international borders.

Misuse of FMR and Security Concerns:

  • The sources draw attention to worries regarding insurgent groups abusing the FMR to launch strikes on the Indian side and flee into Myanmar.
  • In order to improve security and reduce illicit activities including immigration, drug trafficking, and gold smuggling, the FMR should be terminated.
  • The choice is in line with the government’s overarching plan to strengthen border security and stop unauthorised cross-border travel.

Manipur Chief Minister’s Appeal:

  • Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh requested the Centre to end the FMR at the Indo-Myanmar border permanently in September 2023.
  • He underlined the significance of stopping illegal immigration and revealed plans to fence the state’s border with Myanmar in addition to the state’s efforts to create a National Register of Citizens.
  • Manipur and Myanmar share a porous border spanning around 390 km, of which just 10 km is now guarded.
History of FMR and Its Implementation:
  • As part of the Act East policy of the Narendra Modi government, the FMR was established in 2018 with the goal of promoting better diplomatic ties between India and Myanmar.
  • The FMR was supposed to go into effect in 2017, however it was postponed because of the Rohingya refugee crisis that started in August of that year.
  • Members of hill tribes living within 16 km on either side of the border were allowed to enter the country with a border pass that was good for a year and could remain for up to two weeks under the regime.
PYQ: Cross-border movement of insurgents is only one of the several security challenges facing the policing of the border in North-East India. Examine the various challenges currently emanating across the India-Myanmar border. Also, discuss the steps to counter the challenges. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2019)
Practice Question: Examine the potential impact of ending the FMR on diplomatic relations between India and Myanmar and its alignment with broader border control strategies. (200 words/12.5 m)

4. New Hit and Run Law

Topic: GS2 – Polity- Govt. Policies and Interventions

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of new proposals made in Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS)

Context:
  • A new punitive clause under the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita, which imposes a potential 10-year jail term and/or fines for drivers implicated in hit-and-run incidents, has prompted truck drivers across India to hold statewide rallies.
  • In other states, the strict regulation led to a panic buy of fuel and necessities. Transporters have been reassured by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) will be consulted before any decisions are taken on the enforcement of these provisions.

What is New Hit and Run Law?

  • The new hit-and-run law in India is part of the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS), which replaced the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • The law imposes stricter penalties for drivers who flee the scene of a hit-and-run accident.
  • The law states that drivers who cause a serious road accident through negligent driving and flee without informing authorities can face up to 10 years of imprisonment or a fine of Rs 7 lakh.

Provisions of New Hit and Run Law:

  • The new hit-and-run law in India, known as the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS), imposes stricter penalties for drivers who flee the scene of an accident. The law applies to private vehicle owners.
  • The law states that drivers who cause a serious road accident by negligent driving and run away without informing the police or any official from the administration can face punishment of up to 10 years and a fine of Rs 7 lakh.
  • A hit-and-run accident is when a driver is involved in an accident with another property, pedestrian, or car and flees away without providing aid or exchanging insurance details.
  • Drivers who fear that they will be attacked if they stop at the spot of the accident can go to the nearest police station or can call police or the toll free emergency helpline number 108 and inform about the accident.

Earlier Hit-and-Run Law Comparison:

Previous Legislation:

  • Before the introduction of BNS, individuals accused in hit-and-run cases were tried under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code.
  • The penalties were less severe, with offenders facing imprisonment of up to two years upon identification.

Shift towards Stricter Consequences:

  • The new Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita marks a substantial shift toward more severe consequences for hit-and-run offenses in India, indicating a legislative move to address such incidents more rigorously.

New Hit and Run Law Criticisms and Concerns:

  • Stricter Penalties: The new hit-and-run law in India under Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita imposes harsher penalties, including up to 10 years in jail and a 7 lakh rupees fine, as opposed to the previous punishment of two years in jail and a smaller fine.
  • Driver Discouragement: Some private transport operators express concerns that the stringent law may discourage drivers, potentially leading to unjust punishments and impacting the willingness of individuals to take up driving roles.
  • Risk of Mob Violence: Operators worry about the potential for mob violence when drivers attempt to transport injured individuals to hospitals, fearing a hostile reaction from bystanders or communities.
  • Blaming Big Vehicles Without Investigation: Truck drivers, in particular, are concerned that law enforcement may hastily blame larger vehicles without thorough investigation, potentially leading to unjust accusations and penalties.
  • Harassment and Extortion: The industry raises concerns about potential harassment, extortion, unnecessary detention, and legal consequences for drivers, adding to the challenges faced by those in the transportation sector.
Practice Question: Analyze the concerns raised by transporters regarding the potential misuse of the new law and the demand for its withdrawal. Assess the broader implications of these protests on road safety, law enforcement, and the transport sector. (250 words/15 m)

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