Daily Current Affairs 01-02-2024

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    Internet Shutdowns in India

    Syllabus: GS2/Polity & Governance

    In Context

    • The Supreme Court questioned the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir about the non­publication of orders for the suspension of Internet services in the UT.

    About

    • In the past few years India had gone through several violence acts as a result of certain legislations by the Union Government such as The Citizenship Amendment Act, abrogation of Article 370 etc. which could have resulted in Internal Aggression.
    • Due to which it becomes the need of the hour to shut down the internet services to maintain peace.
    • It has become very common practice for law enforcement agencies and even for the Government to cut down the internet during the moment of tension.

    Legal Provisions

    • Till the year 2017, shutdowns were imposed largely under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). 
      • Section 144 of CrPC gave the police and the District Magistrate the powers in order to prevent unlawful gathering of people and also to direct any person to abstain from a certain activity. 
    • However, in 2017 the law was amended and the Government promulgated the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rule 2017.
      • Under the 2017 Rules, telecom/internet shutdowns may be ordered on grounds of public emergency and public safety.  
      • Public emergency and public safety have not been defined in the 1885 Act or the 2017 Rules. 

    Arguments in Favour of Internet Shutdown by the Government

    • National Security: The government may assert that suspending internet services is a temporary and targeted measure to prevent the spread of misinformation, coordinate unlawful activities, or address security threats.
    • Preventing Unrest and Violence: Suspending online communication helps prevent the organization of protests, riots, or other forms of civil unrest.
    • Counteracting Fake News and Disinformation: During times of crisis or conflict, false information circulating online can exacerbate tensions and contribute to misinformation.
    • Temporary and Targeted Measures: Supporters may emphasize that internet shutdowns are intended to be temporary and narrowly focused.
      • These measures are not meant to infringe on long-term access but rather to address specific and immediate concerns.

    Arguments Against the Internet Shutdown by the Government

    • Impact on Freedom of Expression: Internet shutdowns infringe upon the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. 
    • Economic Disruptions: India has a rapidly growing digital economy, and internet shutdowns can lead to significant economic losses.
      • The perception of frequent internet shutdowns may impact tourism and trade, as a stable and accessible digital environment is crucial for business operations and attracting visitors.
    • Educational Challenges: With the increasing use of online platforms for education, internet shutdowns can severely affect students’ access to learning resources, online classes, and communication with teachers. 
    • Healthcare Consequences: Access to healthcare information, telemedicine services, and health-related updates can be hampered during internet shutdowns. 
    • Social and Political Implications: Internet shutdowns are often associated with attempts to control social unrest, protests, or political opposition.
      • Critics argue that such measures can stifle democratic dissent and limit the right to peaceful assembly.
    • Global Image and Investment: Frequent internet shutdowns can impact India’s global image, raising concerns among investors and international partners.
      • A perceived lack of digital freedom and stability may deter foreign investments and collaborations.
    • Human Rights Concerns: Critics assert that internet shutdowns raise human rights concerns, including the right to access information, freedom of speech, and the right to peaceful assembly. 
    • Lack of Transparency: Some critics argue that the government needs to provide clear justifications for such actions and communicate transparently about the duration and reasons for the shutdown.
    Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India Case:
    In 2020 the Supreme Court by ruling on Jammu and Kashmir Internet shutdown held that indefinite internet shutdowns by the State is not permissible under Indian Constitution. 
    – The apex Court further stated that imposition of Section144 can not be used as a mechanism to avoid genuine protest which is permitted under the Constitution. 
    A. Section 144 has very specific parameters, only if those parameters are satisfied then only a Magistrate can pass the orders.
    Key Highlights of the orders:
    A. Usage of the Internet is the Fundamental Right under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.
    B. Internet shutdowns can be of temporary period but not for indefinite period.
    C. Government to publish all orders imposing restrictions under Section 144.
    D. The Court had also said that any order with regard to Internet Shutdowns will come under Judicial Scrutiny.

    Conclusion

    • In a democracy Governments should provide a rationale for disrupting the internet services in a periodic manner. 
    • The publications of all the orders must be made to maintain transparency.
    • Indiscriminate shutdowns have high social and economic costs and are often ineffective. 
    • A proportionality and necessity test analysis to determine the proper course of action are essential at this juncture. 
    • For better internet governance the Indian civil society needs to push for a transparent and accountable system.

    Source: TH

    Odisha Government’s Tribal Outreach

    Context

    • Recently the Odisha government announced measures for the welfare of tribal Population.

    About

    • The Odisha government announced the launch of LABHA (Laghu Bana Jatya Drabya Kraya) Yojana, for minor forest produce (MFP).
    • It has also approved the establishment of a Commission for the Preservation and Promotion of the Tribal Languages of the Scheduled Tribes of Odisha.

    LABHA (Laghu Bana Jatya Drabya Kraya) Yojana

    • It is a 100% State-funded minimum support price (MSP) scheme for minor forest produce (MFP). The MSP will be determined every year by the State government.
    • Under the scheme, a primary collector (a tribal person) will be able to sell the MFP.
    • It will be collected at the procurement centers by the Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation Limited of Odisha (TDCCOL).
    • These procurement centers will be managed by SHGs and any other notified agencies assisted by TDCCOL.
      • As 99% of primary collectors are tribals and the majority of them are women, the LABHA Yojana will integrate the efforts with Mission Shakti’s Women SHGs (self help groups). 
    • The procurement automation system will be set up to capture the total collection of MFPs, the details of the primary collectors, and the procurement point.
    • Significance: The LABHA Yojana will also eliminate the possibility of distress sale of produce to middlemen

    Commission for the Preservation and Promotion of the Tribal Languages 

    • The Commission will encourage multilingual education, document and preserve tribal languages, promote the use and protect linguistic rights.
    • The Commission will make efforts for inclusion of tribal languages like Ho, Mundari, Kui and Saora in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution

    Tribal Population in Odisha

    • Odisha is home to 62 distinct tribes, including 13 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG).
    • The Scheduled Tribes in Scheduled Areas constitute approximately 68.09% of the total tribal population in the State. 
    • It ranks as the third largest concentration of a tribal population, trailing behind Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. 
    • There are 21 tribal languages in Odisha.

    Source: TH

    State Anthem of Meghalaya

    Syllabus: GS2/Polity

    In Context

    • Marking Meghalaya’s 52nd statehood day on January 21 this year, the state government released an official state anthem.

    About

    • The anthem was not performed or played anywhere in the state on Republic Day.
    • The government said that the anthem should not be played as the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for it is still being prepared. 
    • Controversy: The two-minute-long anthem features segments in three languages – Khasi, Garo and English. 
      • Soon after it was launched, there was a discontent over the Jaintia or Pnar language not being represented in it.
      • On the other hand, the inclusion of English, the Jaintia Students’ Union accused the state government of “promoting a foreign language”, and said it should instead “include dialects of all three tribes – Khasi, Jaintia and Garo.”

    Demography in Meghalaya

    • Meghalaya is understood to have three major matrilineal communities – Khasis, Garos and Jaintias. 
    • But the Jaintias are clubbed along with the Khasis in the state’s Scheduled Tribes (ST) list, along with tribes such as War, Bhoi and Lyngngam. 
    • Together, they make up 14.1 lakh of the state’s population (based on 2011 Census data). 
    • The Garos number around 8.21 lakh, with the state’s total population being 29.7 lakh.

    Ethnic Groups in Meghalaya

    • Meghalaya is inhabited by many distinct tribes, the most prominent being the Khasis, the Garos, and the Jaintias. 
      • The Garos inhabit the western area, the central area by the Khasis and the eastern area by the Jaintias.
    • The Khasis: ‘Hynniewtrep’ as they call themselves signifies ‘the seven huts’ which constitute about 50 percent of the population of the state.
      • The Khasi tribe follow the culture, rituals and norms of matrilineal community.
    • The Garos: They are habitants of Garo Hills and call themselves Achik-mande.
      • In the Garo language ‘achik’ means ‘hills’ and ‘mande’ means ‘man’. Hence, Achik-mande means the hill-people. 
      • The Garos are also one of the few tribes in the world who follow a matrilineal societal system.
    • The Jaintias: This tribe is also called Pnar or Synteng. They belong to the Hynniewtrep sect of the Austric race whose kingdom was the oldest and most widely spread around Jaintia Hills.
      • Like the other two, this tribe also is matrilineal where the youngest daughter of the family inherits the family property. 

    Meghalaya State Language Act of 2005

    • The Government has said that the anthem’s languages were selected based on the Meghalaya State Language Act of 2005.
    • The Act designated English as the state’s official language and also designated Khasi as the ‘Associate Official Language’ for all purposes in the districts of East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, South West Khasi Hills, East Jaintia Hills, West Jaintia Hills and Ri Bhoi.
    • Garo language was given the same status in the districts of East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills, South Garo Hills, North Garo Hills and South West Garo Hills.

    Source: IE

    Rising tensions in the Korean peninsula

    Syllabus:GS2/International Relations

    Context

    • The ongoing tensions in the Korean peninsula have raised concerns about the deterioration of the international security environment.

    Background

    • The Korean peninsula was divided into two by the end of World War II, after imperial Japan who occupied the territory was defeated. 
    • The North went under the ambit of the Soviet Union and the South under the U.S., resulting in the creation of two ideologically different regimes which mirrored either sides of the Cold War divide. 

    The Korean war (1950-53)

    • The Korean war broke out as a result of the North’s attempt to take over the South — the first “hot war” of the Cold War. 
    • Today even after the cessation of active conflict and the end of the Cold War, the two countries are still divided over ideology and political leanings.
    • The North Korea being an authoritarian dynastic regime allied with China and Russia, and the South Korea being a liberal democracy allied with the U.S.
    • India’s role in the Korean war: During the War , both the warring sides accepted a resolution sponsored by India, and the ceasefire was declared on 27 July 1953 with the Korean Armistice Agreement. 

    Recent tensions in Korean Peninsula

    • Over the past couple of decades, North Korea has demonstrated its nuclear weapons capability by testing several missiles.
    • The key external stakeholders of the Korean peninsula are the very same nuclear powers who are locked in a global strategic competition — the U.S., China and Russia.
    • Russia and China have boosted its engagement with North Korea. China has always been consistently supportive of North Korea, being the single largest trading partner of the country. 
    • On the other hand South Korea,, has enhanced its military alliance with the U.S., hosting not just U.S. troops, but also advanced missile defense systems.

    Threat to International security

    • North Korea has conducted provocative actions ranging from military drills to shelling South Korean islands and even threatening nuclear attacks. 
    • It supposedly has the ability to even target the U.S. mainland with its nuclear arsenal, and it has also become a major source of cyber-attacks across the world. 
    • Currently the World is witnessing the activation of historically rooted conflicts such as Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Palestine. 
    • Now the nuclear ambitions of North Korea are posing security challenges to the international community.
    • Also Russia and China are gaining from North Korea by creating a distraction for the U.S. by opening a “third front”.

    Way ahead

    • There is a growing concern among the international community that the tensions between North and South Korea may be heading towards conflict.
    • Hence to ensure the global security interest and peace in the region denuclearisation of North Korea is necessary along with ending the US hostile Policy towards it. 
    India-Republic of Korea Bilateral (ROK) Relations 
    Diplomatic relations: They established diplomatic relations in 1973.
    A. Both countries formed a “Strategic Partnership”in 2010, which was elevated to “Special Strategic Partnership” in 2015.
    Economic Relations: Trade and economic relations gathered momentum following the implementation of CEPA in 2010.
    A. India and ROK launched an initiative ‘Korea Plus’ to promote and facilitate Korean investments in India.
    B. Bilateral trade in 2022 reached record levels of US$ 27.8 billion. India’s import volume stands at US$ 18.8 billion, while the export volume is US$ 9 billion. 
    Defense Relations:  The Defence Ministers of ROK and India have been interacting regularly since 2015.
    A. Service level talks across the three arms of the military are held annually
    B. A Roadmap for Defence Industries Cooperation was signed between the two countries in 2019.
    Indian Community: The total number of Indian nationals living in ROK is estimated to be around 15,000.
    a. During the past few years, many professionals mainly in the areas of IT, shipping and automobile have come to ROK.

    Source: TH

    RBI Restrictions On Paytm Payments Bank

    Syllabus: GS3/ Economy

    Context: 

    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently barred Paytm Payments Bank from offering all its core services, including accounts and wallets.

    More about the News

    • The action is technically not a cancellation of Paytm Payments Bank’s licence, it practically constricts the company’s operations to a great extent.
    • It has been discovered that Paytm Payments Bank and its parent company, One97 Communications, were investigated by the RBI revealed persistent non-compliances and continued material supervisory concerns in the bank

    Payments Banks

    • About: 
      • Payments banks in India are a relatively new type of financial institution introduced in 2014.
      • They were set up on the recommendations of the Dr Nachiket Mor committee, which was set up to study ‘Comprehensive financial services for small businesses and low income households’. 
    • Aim: 
      • To provide basic banking services to the unbanked and underbanked population, primarily focusing on digital payments and remittances.
      • To widen the spread of payment and financial services to small business, low-income households, migrant labour workforce in a secured technology-driven environment.
      • With payments banks, RBI seeks to increase the penetration level of financial services to the remote areas of the country.
    • Key Features:
      • Limited Services: Unlike traditional banks, payments banks cannot offer loans, credit cards, or issue demand drafts.
      • They primarily focus on: Accepting deposits up to ₹200,000
        • It can accept demand deposits in the form of savings and current accounts and the received deposits can be invested in secure government securities only in the form of Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR).
        • Remittance services, mobile payments and other banking services like ATM/debit cards, net banking and third party fund transfers.
        • Providing debit cards and mobile banking services.
      • Technology-Driven: Payments banks heavily leverage technology to offer convenient and accessible services, often through partnerships with telecom operators and fintech companies.
      • Wider Reach: They target geographically remote areas and financially excluded segments, aiming to promote financial inclusion.

    Impact and Benefits

    • Financial Inclusion: They have played a crucial role in bringing more people into the formal financial system by providing easier access to basic banking services.
    • Cashless Economy: By promoting digital payments, they contribute to the government’s initiative of transitioning towards a cashless economy.
    • Financial Literacy: Educating customers about digital payments and responsible financial practices.
    • Competition and Innovation: Their entry has increased competition in the banking sector, potentially leading to improved services and lower costs for customers.

    Source: IE

    Neuralink Implants 

    Syllabus: GS3/Developments in Science and Technology

    Context

    • The first human patient has received an implant from brain-chip startup Neuralink recently.

    About

    • Initial results show promising neuron spike detection.
      • Spikes are activity by neurons, which the National Institute of Health describes as cells that use electrical and chemical signals to send information around the brain and to the body.
    • It gives hope that the startup technology will help patients overcome paralysis and a host of neurological conditions.

    Neuralink

    • Neuralink is a neurotechnology company founded by Elon Musk in 2016. 
    • The company’s main goal is to develop brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that can be implanted in the human brain.
      • These BCIs would allow people to control computers and other devices with their thoughts, and could also be used to treat a variety of neurological conditions.
    • Neuralink’s BCI is a small, flexible device that is implanted in the motor cortex of the brain. 
    • The device contains thousands of tiny electrodes that can detect the electrical activity of neurons. This activity is then processed by a computer, which can interpret it as commands or intentions.

    Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs)

    • BCIs are systems that bridge the gap between human thought and external technology. 
    • Working: BCIs capture and translate brain activity into signals that computers can understand. Different approaches exist:
      • Non-invasive BCIs: These use sensors like EEG (electroencephalography) to measure brain waves from outside the skull. They offer good portability but lower resolution.
      • Partially invasive BCIs: These use electrodes implanted under the scalp or skull, providing higher resolution but limited to specific brain areas.
      • Fully invasive BCIs: These like Neuralink’s implant directly interface with brain tissue, offering the highest resolution but raising ethical and safety concerns.

    Application of  Brain Computer interface

    • Human-technology interface: BCI has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with technology. 
    • Communication and Control: Helping people with paralysis control assistive devices, prosthetics, or even computers directly with their thoughts.
    • Sensory Restoration: Restoring sight or hearing loss due to injuries or diseases.
    • Neurological Treatment: Treating conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and chronic pain by modulating brain activity.
    • Augmentation and Enhancement: Potentially amplifying cognitive abilities or memory in the future.

    Challenges/Concerns

    • Safety: The Neuralink company has faced calls for scrutiny regarding its safety protocols. 
      • Veterinary records showed problems with the implants on monkeys included paralysis, seizures and brain swelling.
    • Ethical concerns: Some worry that the device could be used to hack into people’s brains or to control their thoughts. 
    • Superhumans: Others worry that it could create a new class of people who are enhanced with technology.
    • Privacy and Security: Ensuring brain data remains secure and used ethically.
    • Accessibility and Equity: Ensuring equitable access to BCI technology.
    • Human and Machine Integration: Defining the boundaries between human thought and machine control.
    • Brain Enhancement: Considering the implications of cognitive and sensory augmentation.

    Way Ahead

    • BCI research is rapidly evolving, driven by advancements in neuroscience, engineering, and artificial intelligence. 
    • While challenges remain, BCIs hold immense potential to transform healthcare, communication, and our understanding of the brain-computer interface.

    Source: TH

    News In Short

    POEM-3

    Syllabus: GS3/Science and Technology

    In Context

    • As per the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), POEM-3 has successfully achieved all its payload objectives.

    About

    • The PSLV Orbital Experimental Module-3 (POEM-3) is a space platform.
    • It is a three-axis-attitude controlled platform with power generation and telecommand & telemetry capabilities, for supporting Payloads.
    • It used the spent PS4 stage of the PSLV-C58 vehicle which launched XPoSat on January 1, 2024.
    • After achieving all objectives, more experiments with POEM-3 are planned for generating data for future missions including upcoming POEM configurations. 
    • With the orbital decay and reentry of POEM-3 in three months, PSLV-C58 XPoSat mission will be leaving zero debris in space.

    Source: TH