07 January 2021: Daily Current Affairs for UPSC Exam
1) Centre to form panel to resolve issues relating to Ladakh land, culture
Preliminary: Current events of National & International importance.
- The Centre has decided to form a committee to find a solution to issues associated with preservation of Ladakh’s land, culture and language apart from demands from the region to be included under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
- The delegation have expressed concern over threat to the region’s unique culture, language and demography due to recent changes brought about by the Centre to the status of the region in August 2019.
- In order to find an appropriate solution to the issues related to language, culture and conservation of land in Ladakh, a committee was constituted under the leadership of G.Kishan Reddy, Minister of State (Home).
- The committee would comprise of elected members from Ladakh, members of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) and ex-officio members representing the Government of India and the Ladakh administration.
Source: Indian Express
2) Meeting India's air quality targets across south Asia may prevent 7% of pregnancy losses
GS 1: Issues Related to Women
GS 2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
- According to a modelling study published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal, pregnant women in South Asia like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh are exposed to poor air quality, and may be at higher risk of stillbirths and miscarriages.
- Air pollution could be a major contributor to pregnancy loss in south Asia, so controlling air pollution is vital for improving maternal health.
- The study was unable to distinguish between natural pregnancy loss and abortions, which may have led to an underestimation of the effect of air pollution on natural pregnancy loss.
- This is the first study to quantify the burden in south Asia, which is the most populous region in the world and has the highest rate of pregnancy loss. Therefore, understanding the risk factors for pregnancy loss in south Asia is crucial to improving maternal health regionally and globally.
HIGHLIGHTS OF STUDY:
- South Asia has the highest burden of pregnancy loss globally and is one of the most PM2.5 polluted regions in the world. Poor air quality could be responsible for a considerable burden of pregnancy loss in the region.
Why air pollution can cause pregnancy loss?
- Losing a pregnancy can have knock-on mental, physical and economic effects on women, including increased risk of postnatal depressive disorders, infant mortality during subsequent pregnancy, and increase the costs related to pregnancy, such as loss of labour. Therefore, reducing pregnancy loss may also lead to knock-on improvements in gender equality.
- The increase in risk was greater for mothers from rural areas or those who became pregnant at an older age, compared to younger mothers from urban areas.
- Pregnancy loss associated with air pollution was more common in the Northern plains region in India and Pakistan. Although the total burden of pregnancy loss was predominantly borne by rural women aged under 30 years old in recent years, the burden attributable to PM2.5 also affected older mothers (aged 30 years or over) in rural areas because of their high susceptibility to the adverse effects of PM2.5.
- Although WHO's guidelines aims for a safer level of air pollution, India's standard is a more realistic target level, given the high average levels of air pollution in the region and there is a need to balance practical governance and public health.
Source: Indian Express
3) Supreme Court: Fixing notional income for homemaker step towards social equality, dignity
GS 1: Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India
- The Supreme Court has ruled that household work is no mean feat and fixing notional income for a non-earning “homemaker is a step towards the constitutional vision of social equality and ensuring dignity of life to all individuals”.
- The ruling pointed out that according to the 2011 Census, nearly 159.85 million women stated that “household work” was their main occupation, as compared to only 5.79 million men.
- On an average, women spend nearly 299 minutes a day on unpaid domestic services for household members versus 97 minutes spent by men on average. Thus, women spend more time on "unpaid care giving services for household members" as compared to men.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE RULING:
- There are legal complexities regarding the calculation of notional income of a non-earning homemaker. Women dedicates sheer amount of time and effort to household work as they perform plethora of activities like cooking food for the entire family, manages the procurement of groceries and other household shopping needs, cleans and manages the house and its surroundings, undertakes decoration, repairs and maintenance work, looks after the needs of the children and any aged member of the household, manages budgets and so much more.
- In rural households, they often also assist in the sowing, harvesting and transplanting activities in the field, apart from tending cattle.
- There is a conception that housemakers do not ‘work’ or that they do not add economic value to the household is a problematic idea that has persisted for many years and must be overcome. The issue of fixing notional income for a homemaker serves extremely important functions.
- These activities contribute towards economic condition of the family, and the economy of the nation, but it is traditionally excluded from economic analyses.
- Our Constitution enshrines social equality and ensuring dignity of life to all individuals. Hence, changing attitudes and mindsets need to be changed.
Source: Indian Express
4) Caracal put on critically endangered list
GS 3: Conservation of wildlife.
Preliminary : Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity
- The National Board for Wildlife approved a recovery program for the caracal, which is now a critically endangered species. The caracal is found only in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
- Including the species in the recovery programme will mean the species will have a separate conservation programme.
- The semi-arid region of Kutch is one of only two homes of this cat species in India. According to a research report, the caracal’s presence has been noted in only three states, with just two possible viable populations. These are in the marshy areas of Kutch district, the higher areas closer to Kalo Dungar with grassy scrubland; and in Rajasthan’s Sawai Madhopur, Karoli, and Dholpur districts.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists caracals as a species of ‘least concern’, mainly due to their large numbers in Africa. But in India they are ‘endangered’.
- According to the study ‘Historical and current extent of occurrence of the Caracal in India’, in Gujarat 19 sightings were reported, all in Kutch district.
- The caracal ranges across Africa and the Middle East to India. It is keenly adapted to the potentially harsh environments of savanna, semi-desert, dry woodland, arid hilly steppe, and dry mountains.
- The caracal’s place in the cat family tree is somewhat muddled, but it is believed that it is closely related to the serval and golden cat.
- The word caracal is from a Turkish word that means “black-eared.”
STEPS TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT:
- The Union forest ministry will first order a population estimation and then carry out a study on their habitat. Once these findings are available, a habitat improvement and breeding programme will be taken up, similar to that for the great Indian bustard. If required, a captive breeding programme will also be undertaken.
Source: Indian Express
5) Iran moves to outlaw sexual violence, harassment of women
GS 1: Social empowerment
- Iran’s government approved a Bill that criminalises violence and sexual misconduct against women and specifies punishments for perpetrators.
- This Bill will be the first law of its kind in Iran’s penal code— comes in the aftermath of a groundbreaking #MeToo movement and shocking reports of so-called honor killings that have gripped the public over the past six months.
- Last year, both ‘honor killings’ that got national attention and the #MeToo movement in Iran, have increased the pressure on the government to push this Bill.
- Bill still fell short of international standards and did not address all the aspects of violence that women face. Still, it marked a step forward and reflected the shifting dynamics of Iranian society, and steps ahead of the government on issues of violence against women.
- According to the Bill, “any act that causes physical or emotional or reputational harm” to a woman or results in curbing her freedom and social rights is considered a crime. It also addresses sexual harassment and coercing women into sexual acts short of intercourse as crimes.
Source: Indian Express
6) Germany agrees to quota for women on firms’ boards
GS 2: Social empowerment
- The Government in Germany approved legislation to force larger listed companies to have atleast one woman on their management boards.
- The law builds on a 30% quota for supervisory boards introduced in 2015 and will apply to listed companies with more than three management board members.
- This law is a milestone for more women in leadership positions. Before that not many changes are made voluntarily, and progress was very slow.
- The new law affects around 70 companies, of which around 30 currently have no women on their management boards at all.
- The percentage of women on corporate supervisory boards crossed the 30% threshold in 2017, and stood at 35.2% in November 2020.
- On management boards of the largest roughly 100 listed companies, women accounted for only 11.5% of positions. The German legislation also sets out stricter gender equality rules for government-controlled companies, where boards with more than two members will have to have at least one woman on them.
- According to the DIW economic think tank, the new quota will have a limited impact. It won’t turn the minimum participation of women on boards on its head right away. It applies to too few companies to do that.
- Women make up one third of executive boards in Europe’s biggest companies but occupy only a small minority of leadership roles, according to a study published last year, with Norway ranking top for gender diversity, followed by France.
Source: Indian Express
7) How horizontal, vertical quotas work; what SC said
GS 1: Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India
- The Supreme Court, recently, clarified the position of law on the interplay of vertical and horizontal reservations. This ruling dealt with issues arising from the way different classes of reservation were to be applied in the selection process to fill posts of constables in the state.
What are vertical and horizontal reservations?
- Reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes is referred to as vertical reservation. It applies separately for each of the groups specified under the law.
- Horizontal reservation refers to the equal opportunity provided to other categories of beneficiaries such as women, veterans, the transgender community, and individuals with disabilities, cutting through the vertical categories.
How are the two categories of quotas applied together?
- The horizontal quota is applied separately to each vertical category, and not across the board. For example, if women have 50% horizontal quota, then half of the selected candidates will have to necessarily be women in each vertical quota category — i.e., half of all selected SC candidates will have to be women, half of the unreserved or general category will have to be women, and so on.
- The inter locking of the two types of reservation throws up a host of questions on how certain groups are to be identified.
- The court ruled that if a person belonging to an intersection of vertical-horizontal reserved category had secured scores high enough to qualify without the vertical reservation, the person would be counted as qualifying without the vertical reservation, and cannot be excluded from the horizontal quota in the general category.
- A similar question had arisen in the case of vertical reservations in the past, and the law had been settled similarly: If a person in the SC category secures a higher score than the cut-off for the general category, the person would be counted as having qualified under the general category instead of the SC quota.
- The court concluded that if both vertical and horizontal quotas were to be applied together — and consequently, a high-scoring candidate who would otherwise qualify without one of the two reservations is knocked off the list — then the overall selection would have candidates with lower scores.
- On the other hand, if a high-scoring candidate is allowed to drop one category, the court found that the overall selection would reflect more high-scoring candidates. In other words, the “meritorious” candidates would be selected.
- The ruling strikes at the heart of the debate on “merit versus reservation”, where reservation is sometimes projected as being anti-merit.
Source: Indian Express
8) New investments in science
GS 3: Science and Technology- developments
- The 5th national draft Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy was released on 1 January 2021, which contains radical and progressive proposals that could be game-changers for not just the scientific research community, but also for the way ordinary Indians interact with science.
ABOUT RECENT STI POLICY:
- It follows core principles of being decentralised, evidence-informed, bottom-up, experts-driven, and inclusive.
- It aims to be dynamic, with a robust policy governance mechanism that includes periodic review, evaluation, feedback, adaptation and, most importantly, a timely exit strategy for policy instruments.
- The STIP will be guided by the vision of positioning India among the top three scientific superpowers in the decade to come; to attract, nurture, strengthen, and retain critical human capital through a people-centric STI ecosystem; to double the number of fulltime equivalent (FTE) researchers, gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) and private- sector contribution to GERD every five years; and to build individual and institutional excellence in STI with the aim of reaching the highest levels of global recognition and awards in the coming decade.
- The policy outlines strategies for strengthening India’s STI ecosystem to achieve the larger goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat.
- STIP provides a forward-looking, all-encompassing Open Science Framework to provide access to scientific data, information, knowledge, and resources to everyone in the country, and to all who are engaging with the Indian STI ecosystem on an equal partnership basis.
- The STIP envisions free access to all journals, Indian and foreign, for every Indian against a centrally-negotiated payment mechanism.
- The larger idea behind One Nation, One Subscription is to democratize science by providing access to scholarly knowledge to not just researchers but to every individual in the country.
- Participation of women in science and education to promote inclusion and equity: The STIP has made recommendations such as mandatory positions for excluded groups in academics; 30% representation of women in selection/evaluation committees and decision-making groups; addressing issues related to career breaks for women by considering academic age rather than biological/physical age; a dual recruitment policy for couples; and institutionalization of equity and inclusion by establishing an Office of Equity and Inclusion, etc.
- COVID-19 learning: In India, the pandemic presented an opportunity for R&D institutions, academia, and industry to work with a shared purpose, synergy, collaboration and cooperation, which helped the country develop the capability to produce these kits in record time. The STIP draft focuses on the need to adopt such learnings for greater efficiency and synergy in future.
- The policy is to identify and address the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian STI (Science, Technology, Innovation) ecosystem to catalyse the socioeconomic development of the country.
INCREASE FUNDING IN R&D
- Low private sector investment (less than 40%) in R&D activities in India so at 0.6% of GDP, India’s gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) is quite low compared to other major economies that have a GERD-to-GDP ration of 1.5% to 3%.
- STIP recommended expansion of the STI funding landscape at the central and state levels; enhanced incentivisation mechanisms for leveraging the private sector’s R&D participation through boosting financial support and fiscal incentives for industry and flexible mechanisms for public procurement; and creative avenues for collaborative STI funding through a portfolio-based funding mechanism called the Advanced Missions in Innovative Research Ecosystem (ADMIRE) programme to support distributed and localized collaborative mission-oriented projects through along-term investment strategy.
- A national STI Financing Authority, along with an STI Development Bank, need to be set up to direct long-terminvestments in select strategic areas.
- The STIP also suggests modification or waiver of General Financial Rules (GFR), for large-scale mission mode programmes and projects of national importance.
WHAT IS OPEN SCIENCE FRAMEWORK?
Source: Indian Express
9) How Saudi and Qatar restored ties, ending a 3-year Middle East crisis
GS 2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora
- Gulf states signed a ‘solidarity and stability’ deal at the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia.
- Members of the GCC signed a deal in AlUla, Saudi Arabia to remove all the sanctions over Qatar and re-open their land, sea and air borders to Qatar.
- In 2017, Saudi Arabia led an Arab transport blockade against Qatar, ostensibly to pressurize Qatar into reducing diplomatic and economic relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia's great rival in the region.
- Coalition countries put 13 demands as conditions to resume relations, including shutting news organisations such as Al Jazeera, closing a Turkish military base in the country, and downgrading ties with Tehran.
- Qatar called the embargo a violation of international laws and instead, strengthened ties with Iran and Turkey.
- Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) members Kuwait and Oman broke ranks with the Saudi group, and Kuwait sought to assume the role of mediator between the coalition and Qatar.
Qatar in the Middle East
- Due to the presence of large gas reserves contributing significantly in helping Qatar to become an influential player in the region’s politics.
- Qatar has also used its wealth and influence on the wider global stage.
- Qatar shares a huge gas field with Iran, which is an incentive for it to retain good relations with the Shiite regime in Tehran. This is a strong irritant for Sunni Saudi Arabia, which seeks to control the geopolitics of the Middle East.
- Qatar’s support for the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Islamist groups in Syria are also major areas of contention. Howeever, Qatar has denied backing al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
India’s Relation with Gulf Region
- The friendly relation between India with GCC has been reflected in the bilateral trade of around USD 121 billion and remittances of USD 49 billion from a workforce of over nine million.
- GCC suppliers account for around 34% of India’s crude imports.
- India has always shared a friendly relationship with Iran. Due to the USA’s pressure (abandoned the nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)) which has politico-economic impacts led to complex phase in India and Iran relations.
- India shares a friendly relation with Qatar (India’s External Affairs Minister met the top leaders of Qatar) and even at the time of sanctions on Qatar, India maintained a cordial relation with the oil rich nation.
- India never participated in local or regional disputes in the region. India depends on Gulf for energy and thus, their trading relation is marked by growing volumes of energy imports into India. There is also substantive investments from the Gulf into the Indian hydrocarbon sector.
- Number of Indian workers work in Gulf Countries. Gulf Partners and India are also taking stps towards defence cooperation.
Source: Indian Express
10) SC to study anti-conversion laws of Uttarakhand and U.P
GS 2: Separation of powers between various organs.
Preliminary: Indian Polity & Governance.
- The Supreme Court (SC) agreed to examine the constitutional validity of laws enacted by States, such as Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, that criminalise religious conversion via marriage and mandate prior official clearance before marrying into another faith.
- SC did not stay the implementation of the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 and the Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion Act, 2018.
- Those who are found guilty under these laws stare at a 10year prison sentence. The offences are non-bailable.
- Laws passed by the states violates fundamental rights of dignity and liberty enshrined under Article 21. They had been enacted despite a series of judgments by the SC, including in the Hadiya case, that right to marry a person of one’s choice was part of an adult’s privacy.
- A series of Supreme Court verdicts underline that the choice of a life partner, whether by marriage or outside it, was part of an individual’s “personhood and identity”.
- Under the laws, a person marrying into another faith should give a month’s prior notice to the authorities. There will be an inquiry. The provisions are oppressive.
- These laws will create fear in society and become a potent tool in the hands of bad elements to falsely implicate anyone. A grave injustice will be done by the ordinances. They will create a chaotic situation.
- The court had said in its Hadiya case judgment, “Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity.
- Neither the State nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters.”
- In the K.S. Puttaswamy case, or ‘privacy,’ judgment, a Constitution Bench said the autonomy of the individual was the ability to make decisions in vital matters of concern to life.
- Any interference by the State in an adult’s right to love and marry had a “chilling effect" on freedom. Intimacies of marriage lie within a core zone of privacy, which is inviolable.
- “The absolute right of an individual to choose a life partner is not in the least affected by matters of faith”.
Source: The Hindu
11) Using God’s name to sell articles illegal
GS 2: Separation of powers between various organs
GS 4: Emotional intelligence-concepts
- The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court has declared that advertisement of any article using the name of any God and claiming that it has supernatural qualities, is “illegal” and falls under the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Eviland Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act.
HIGHLIGHTS OF ORDER:
- Telemarketers change the names of companies, Gods and Babas to show that each was a different Yantra.
- With the representation that these articles have special, miraculous and supernatural properties and that they will help people to become happy, make progress in business, see advancement in career, show improved performance in education, recover from disease etc., is illegal.
- The court directed the State and Vigilance Officers to register such crimes, giving reports against persons who make such advertisements and sell such articles.
- The court also directed the State and Central governments to create separate cells in Mumbai to ensure that no such features were telecast, either as advertisement or in the name of programmes, in Maharashtra.
Source: The Hindu
12) Foundation stone laid for ‘New Anubhava Mantapa’
GS 1: Indian Heritage and Culture
- Karnataka CM laid the foundation stone for the ‘New Anubhava Mantapa’ in Basavakalyan, the place where 12th century poet philosopher Basaveshwara lived for most of his life.
- It is a ?500 crore project and will be completed within two years on a 7.5 acre area.
- This project highlights the teachings of Basaveshwara (an icon of the Veerashaiva Lingayat community).
- The Project was first proposed back in 2016. Basavakalyan, an important pilgrim centre for Lingayats.
- The New Anubhava Mantapa, as envisaged now, will be a six floor structure.
- It will showcase the 12th Century Anubhava Mantapa (often referred to as the “first Parliament of the world”) established by him in Basavakalyan, where philosophers and social reformers held debates.
- The building will adopt the Kalyana Chalukya style of architecture.
Source: The Hindu
13) India and Japan on Partnership in "Specified Skilled Worker"
GS 2: International Relations
- The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation between the Government of India and Government of Japan, on a Basic Framework for Partnership for Proper Operation of the System Pertaining to "Specified Skilled Worker".
- Under this MOC, a Joint Working Group will be set up to follow up the implementation of this MOC.
- It would set an institutional mechanism for partnership and cooperation between India and Japan on sending and accepting skilled Indian workers, who have qualified the required skill and Japanese language test, to work in fourteen specified sectors in Japan.
- These Indian workers would be granted a new status of residence of "Specified Skilled Worker" by the Government of Japan.
- The Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) would enhance people-to -people contacts, foster mobility of workers and skilled professionals from India to Japan.
- Skilled Indian workers from fourteen sectors viz. Nursing care; Building cleaning; Material Processing industry; Industrial machinery manufacturing industry; Electric and electronic information related industry; Construction; Shipbuilding and ship-related industry; Automobile maintenance; Aviation; Lodging; Agriculture; Fisheries; Food and beverages manufacturing industry and Food service industry would have enhanced job opportunities to work in Japan.
14) BRO DG briefs MoS Jitendra Singh on road, bridge projects in J&K, northeast
GS 2: Infrastructure
- The new Director General, Border Road Organisation (BRO) briefed about the Chattergala tunnel.
- The proposed Chattergala tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir will connect district Kathua with district Doda to enroute the new Highway via Basohli-Bani through Chattergalla to touch Bhaderwah and Doda.
- It is going to be a 6.8 Km long tunnel.
- The tunnel is likely to take about 4 years for completion after the execution work starts and its construction cost is around Rs. 3,000 crore.
- This is going to be a historic landmark project providing all-weather alternate road connectivity between the two distant regions and reducing the travel time from Doda to Lakhanpur on the Punjab border to just around four hours.
Source: Times Of India
15) INDIAN INDUSTRY “UDYOG MANTHAN” BEGINS
GS 3: Industry
- The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India is organizing ‘Udyog Manthan’ from January 4, 2021 to March 2, 2021 in association with Quality Council of India, National Productivity Council, and Industry bodies.
- Udyog Manthan is a marathon of focused sector-specific webinars for promoting Quality and Productivity in Indian Industry.
- The webinar series comprising 45 sessions will cover various major sectors in manufacturing and services. Udyog Manthan will identify challenges, opportunities; draw upon solutions and best practices.
- Participants will include representatives from industry, testing and standardization bodies. The discussions will be live streamed on YouTube for all those interested in following the sessions.
Source: DD News
16) Earthquake monitoring and delineation of subsurface structures in Delhi region
GS 3: Disaster Management
- A geophysical survey, namely, Magneto-telluric (MT) is being conducted over the Delhi region.
- The National Capital Region of Delhi experienced 4 small earthquakes during April – August 2020.
- These earthquakes were followed by a dozen of micro-events (M<3.0) including, a few aftershocks.
- All these events were located by the National Seismological Network (NSN), being operated and maintained by National Seismological Centre (NCS), Ministry of Earth Sciences.
- Subsequently, NCS initiated the Magneto-telluric (MT), a geophysical survey over the Delhi region in collaboration with Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Dehradun.
- It is a geophysical method which uses natural time variation of the Earth’s magnetic and electric fields to understand geological (underground) structure and processes.
- These measurements are conducted across three major seismic sources, namely Mahendragarh-Dehradun Fault (MDF), Sohna Fault (SF) and Mathura Fault (MF).
- These measurements will ascertain the presence of fluid, which generally enhances the possibility of triggering of earthquakes.
Source: DD News