Daily Current Affairs 25-04-2024

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    Syllabus: GS2/International Relations

    • The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill 2023, is passed by the government of the United Kingdom.
    • The deportation scheme, for asylum seekers deemed to have entered the UK “illegally”, was first proposed in 2022 as a way of tackling “small boats” crossings of the Channel from northern France.
    • Under the Safety of Rwanda Bill, anyone who arrived “illegally” in Britain after January 1, 2022 will be sent to the Rwandan capital of Kigali, where they will either be granted asylum and resettled in Rwanda or be sent to a third country.
    • Human rights groups have criticized the plan as inhumane and unworkable.
    • In 2023, the supreme court declared the scheme unlawful, pointing out that Rwanda was not a “safe” country and the plan went against the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
    • Highlighting the dangers of transferring refugees and asylum seekers to third countries without sufficient safeguards, the United Nations Refugee Agency said they must not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.
    • Rwanda has a known track record of extrajudicial killings, suspicious deaths in custody, unlawful or arbitrary detention, torture, and abusive prosecutions, particularly targeting critics and dissidents. 
    • The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol are the key legal documents that form the basis of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR’s) work.
      • The Convention is both a status and rights-based instrument and is underpinned by a number of fundamental principles.
    • The core principle of the Convention is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.
    • The document outlines the basic minimum standards for the treatment of refugees, including the right to housing, work and education while displaced so they can lead a dignified and independent life. 
    • It also defines a refugee’s obligations to host countries and specifies certain categories of people, such as war criminals, who do not qualify for refugee status.
    • It details the legal obligations of the States that are party to one or both of these instruments.
    • India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. 
    • All foreign undocumented nationals are governed as per the provisions of The Foreigners Act, 1946, The Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939, The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and The Citizenship Act, 1955.
    • As per the MHA foreign nationals who enter into the country without valid travel documents are treated as illegal immigrants.
    • The constitution of India protects the refugees’ right to life with dignity that includes right against solitary confinement and custodial violence, right to medical assistance and shelter.
    Overview of migration terms

    Asylum seeker: A person who is seeking international protection. Prior to being granted legal status in the destination country, refugees are termed asylum seekers. Not all asylum seekers will be granted refugee status.
    Internally displaced person: Someone who has been forced to flee from their home to avoid conflict, violence and disasters and has moved within an internationally recognized state border.
    Migrant: A migrant is an “umbrella term, not defined under international law, reflecting the common lay understanding of a person who moves away from his or her place of usual residence, whether within a country or across a border, temporarily or permanently, and for a variety of reasons”.
    Refugee: According to the 1951 United Nations Convention, refugees are individuals living outside their countries of origin who are in need of international protection because of feared persecution, or a serious threat to their life, physical integrity or freedom in their country of origin.
    a. Refugees have legal permission to remain in the host country and may have access to health care, education and welfare benefits.

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS3/Environmental Pollution/Agriculture

    • Vietnamese rice farmers are pioneering new methods to cut down on methane emissions.
    • Irrigation Methods: Vietnamese Rice farmers are adopting a water-saving irrigation technique called alternate wetting and drying (AWD). AWD reduces methane emissions because it keeps paddies moist but not constantly flooded, unlike traditional methods.
    • Using Drones: To save the labour costs they are opting drone technology.
    • Stubble Disposal: Once crops are harvested, he no longer burns the rice stubble — a major cause of air pollution in Vietnam.  Instead, it’s collected by the Loc Troi Group for sale to other companies that use it as livestock feed and for growing straw mushrooms, a popular addition to stir-fries.
    • Rice is a semi-aquatic plant cultivated in flooded fields, where it thrives under a layer of stagnant water.
      • This creates the ideal anaerobic conditions for bacteria to thrive on decomposing organic matter (mainly rice straw residue) and release methane. 
    • Poor absorption by the rice plant of nitrogen-based fertilizers, often overused by farmers, leads to nitrous oxide emissions. 
    • This phenomenon contributes significantly to global methane emissions, with rice production alone accounting for approximately 10% of these emissions worldwide. 
    • India’s methane emissions in 2016 were 409 million tone CO2e of which, 73.96% was from Agriculture sector, 14.46% from Waste sector, 10.62% from Energy sector and 0.96% was from Industrial Processes and Product Use sector.
    • The two predominant sources of methane emissions in India are enteric fermentation and paddy cultivation. 
    • National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA):  This mission by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare promotes climate-resilient practices, including techniques that reduce methane emissions during rice cultivation.
    • Livestock Management: The National Livestock Mission promotes practices that can reduce methane emissions from livestock. These practices include:
      • Green fodder production
      • Silage making
      • Chaff cutting
      • Total mixed ration feeding
    • Biogas Programs: The New National Biogas and Organic Manure Programme (NNBOMP) and the Gobar-Dhan scheme encourage the use of biogas produced from cattle dung and organic waste.
    • Though India has opted various measures, however, India is not currently part of the Global Methane Pledge, an international agreement to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

    Source: TH

    Syllabus :GS 3/Environment 

    • The National Clean Air Programme missed the 2024 target to push back pollution.
    • It  was launched by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in January 2019 as a comprehensive initiative in partnership with various Ministries and States to improve air quality at city, regional and national level. 
    • It aims to improve air quality in 131 cities (non-attainment cities and Million Plus Cities) in 24 States by engaging all stakeholders.
    • Features : Under NCAP, cities continuously violating annual PM levels in India need to prepare and implement annual Clean Air Action Plans (CAAPs). 
      • To facilitate this, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change has allocated ₹10,422.73 crore. 
      • NCAP envisages reduction by 20-30% in PM 10 concentration over baseline in 2017 by 2024. 
        • Target has been revised to achieve reduction in PM10 level up to 40% or achievement of national standards (60 µg/m3) by 2025-26.
    • Most cities proactively submitted their Clean Air Action Plans(CAAPs) yet their implementation has been inconsistent.
      • On average, only 60% of the allocated funds have been used thus far, according to the Ministry, with 27% of cities spending less than 30% of their designated budgets. 
    • Implementation delays hinder NCAP’s success, particularly delays in approvals from the competent authorities (for example, the technical specification of tendering processes or for procuring products such as mechanical sweepers and electric buses).
    • There is also a lack of standard operating procedures for the implementation process. 
    • Time-consuming tasks required to implement control measures and the absence of well-defined timelines create further delays. 
    • Yet other reasons include bureaucratic red-tape and lingering doubts regarding the effectiveness of proposed mitigation measures. 
    • Pollution from high-emitting industries and other sources outside city limits, carried into urban areas by winds complicates urban air-quality management.
    • According to the Portal for Regulation of Air-pollution in Non-Attainment cities, only 37% of cities have completed EI and SA studies, meaning the remaining 63% don’t have a clear idea about what is polluting their air. 
    • Emissions Inventory (EI) and Source Apportionment (SA) studies are critical to identify and understand the origins of pollution.
      • EIs provide insights into local pollution sources and their contributions, allowing experts to forecast future emissions based on demographic shifts and technological advancements across sectors, among other factors. 
      • EIs also help shape targeted pollution control strategies.
        • They have their limitations, too, particularly in assessing the impact of transboundary pollution sources — such as when determining the effect of stubble-burning outside Delhi on the city’s air quality.
    • SA studies offer a detailed analysis of contributions from various pollution sources, including those located afar.
      • However, they aren’t suited for predictive analysis and require substantial resources, including specialised personnel and equipment for chemical analysis. 
      • SA studies also can’t distinguish between the origins of pollution, like, say, emissions from diesel trucks 200 m away and 20 km away, because diesel emissions have similar chemical signatures.
      • These gaps can be bridged through AQ modelling, which informs our understanding of pollution dispersion, including from distant sources.
    • The cities should look into EI and SA data to pinpoint air pollutants and prepare mitigation measures targeting each polluting activity.
      • Based on the potential and infrastructure requirements, cities need to set proper yearly targets and fund them.
    • Many existing control measures focus only on primary PM emissions, neglecting their secondary precursors.
      • A shift towards comprehensive strategies addressing both primary and secondary pollutants is thus important. 
    • Beyond the need for data and models, swift implementation on the ground is essential.
      • For this, implementation agencies should seek to reduce bureaucratic red tape by utilising shared, standardised technical evaluations. 
    • As NCAP funding is linked with the performance of cities (based on the annual average PM concentration reduction), prior budgeting and time management play crucial roles.
      • Technical feasibility, budgeting, and time estimates need to be part of the initial plans.
    • The journey towards cleaner air in India, as charted by NCAP, will be difficult but is necessary.
      • NCAP’s success hinges on a multifaceted approach that combines rigorous scientific studies, strategic funds, and swift and effective implementation of mitigation measures.

    Source:TH

    Syllabus: GS2/Governance

    • India was ranked right at the bottom of 180 countries in the Environment Performance Index (EPI) in 2022. 
      • The ranking raises questions about the success of the Swachh Bharat Mission.
    • The EPI ranks countries on climate change performance, environmental health, and ecosystem vitality. 
      • It measures 40 performance indicators across 11 issue categories, such as air quality, and drinking water and sanitation. 
    • The government responded to the rank saying the methodology is faulty and does not quantify the Indian scenario objectively.
    • The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) aims to enable better living standards, so the poor ranking can be linked to the success of SBM.
    • The Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission (SBM) was launched in 2014 with the goal of achieving universal sanitation coverage by 2019, as a tribute to the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
    • It consisted of two sub-missions, urban, and rural or Gramin (G).
      • The urban component of the mission is implemented by the Ministry of Urban Development, and the rural component by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
    • SBM(G) sought to improve “the levels of cleanliness through Solid and Liquid Waste Management activities and making Gram Panchayats Open Defecation Free (ODF), clean and sanitized. 
    • SBM Phase II: The second phase, started in 2020-2021, expands efforts with a focus on safe management of solid and liquid waste and sustainability of ODF.
      • An ODF Plus village is one which has sustained its Open Defecation Free (ODF) status along with implementing either solid or liquid waste management systems.
      • It would transform villages from ODF to ODF Plus by 2024-25.
    • SBM Phase I: The programme led to the construction of over 10 crore individual household toilets, taking sanitation coverage from 39% in 2014 to 100% in 2019 when around 6 lakh villages declared themselves Open Defecation Free (ODF).
      • While studies indicate that the SBM-G campaign led to significant economic, environmental and health impacts, contributing to the empowerment of women in particular, it also led to the achievement of SDG 6.2 (Sanitation and Hygiene), 11 years ahead of the stipulated timeline. 
    • SBM Phase II: 75% villages have achieved ODF Plus status under Phase II of the Mission.
      • The top performing States/UTs which have achieved 100% ODF Plus villages are – Andaman & Nicobar Islands, D&N Haveli, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Ladakh, Puducherry, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Tripura. 
    • Behavioral Change: One of the primary challenges has been changing deep-rooted cultural attitudes and behaviors towards cleanliness and sanitation.
      • Encouraging people to adopt hygienic practices, such as proper waste disposal and toilet usage, requires sustained efforts in education and awareness campaigns.
    • Infrastructure Development: Building adequate sanitation infrastructure, including toilets and waste management systems, especially in rural areas, has been a considerable challenge.
      • Ensuring the availability of facilities in remote and economically disadvantaged regions requires significant investment and logistical planning.
    • Maintenance of Infrastructure: Merely constructing toilets is not sufficient; ensuring their proper maintenance and usage over time is crucial.
      • Many toilets constructed under SBM have faced issues of poor maintenance and non-functionality due to lack of ownership or awareness among users.
    • Open Defecation: Despite efforts to eradicate open defecation, it remains prevalent in certain areas due to various factors such as lack of awareness, cultural practices, or inadequate toilet facilities.
      • Changing these behaviors requires not only infrastructure development but also community engagement and behavior change communication.
    • Waste Management: Proper solid and liquid waste management is essential for maintaining cleanliness and preventing environmental pollution.
      • However, the infrastructure and systems for waste collection, segregation, and disposal are often inadequate, leading to issues such as littering and contamination of water sources.
    • Funding and Resources: Adequate funding and resources are necessary for the successful implementation of SBM.
      • While the government has allocated significant funds for the mission, ensuring effective utilization and allocation of resources at the grassroots level remains a challenge.
    • Addressing these challenges requires a multi-pronged approach involving not only government intervention but also active participation and cooperation from communities, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders. 
    • Sustainable solutions that address the root causes of sanitation and cleanliness issues, along with continuous monitoring and feedback mechanisms, are essential for the long-term success of the Swachh Bharat Mission.

    Source: TH

    Syllabus: GS3/Environment; Climate Change

    Context

    • A new study has found that the northern permafrost region is emitting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than it is capturing.

    About the Permafrost Region

    • Permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, covers a quarter of the northern hemisphere.
    • The upper 3 metres of permafrost soils are estimated to store 1 trillion tonnes of soil organic carbon and 55 billion tonnes of soil nitrogen.
    • However, global warming is causing this permafrost to thaw, leading to the release of these stored greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
    Northern Permafrost Region

    – The northern permafrost region, historically one of the largest terrestrial carbon and nitrogen pools, is on track to become a carbon source instead of a sink due to global warming.
    – It is projected to occur as increasing temperatures lead to thawing permafrost, exposing substantial quantities of organic carbon and resulting in the atmospheric release of greenhouse gases.

    Shift from Sink to Source

    • A new study published in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles has provided the first-ever comprehensive estimation of the quantities of emission and capturing of Carbon Dioxide, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide between 2000 and 2020 in and around the Arctic.
    • The region emitted 38 million tonnes of Methane, 6,70,000 tonnes of Nitrous Oxide, and 12 million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere between 2000 and 2020.
    • The region was a net source of 144 million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide and Methane and 3 million tonnes of nitrogen.

    Impact of Thawing Permafrost

    • The release of greenhouse gases from thawing permafrost into the atmosphere could have a strong impact on the global carbon cycle.
    • It has the potential to accelerate global climate warming, known as the ‘permafrost carbon feedback’.
    • For the assessment, the scientists classified the region into five categories:
      • Boreal Forests;
      • Wetlands;
      • Dry Tundra;
      • Tundra Wetlands;
      • Permafrost Bogs (ecosystems with near-surface permafrost and thick surface peat layers);
    • It was found that wetlands were the biggest source of methane, contributing nearly 83%.
    • All terrestrial ecosystems except boreal forests were net Methane emitters.
    • Dry tundra was the biggest driver of N2O release, followed by permafrost bogs.

    Source: DTE

    Syllabus: GS3/Economy

    Context

    • The chairman of Indian Overseas Congress, Sam Pitroda’s comments on the inheritance tax, have raised the specter of wealth redistribution.

    Inheritance tax

    • Inheritance tax, also called estate tax, is imposed on the total value of money and property left behind by a deceased individual before it is passed on to their legal heirs. 
    • This tax is usually determined by considering the value of the assets minus any eligible exemptions or deductions.
    • The main goals of inheritance tax are to raise government revenue and facilitate wealth redistribution.
    • In India, there is no tax on inheritance as the Inheritance or Estate Tax. It was eliminated in 1985.

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS3/Environment/Conservation; Places in News

    Context

    • Recently, there was a concern arising from the fact that the State government plans to denotify a sizable area of the Pulicat wetland and sanctuary.

    About the Pulicat Wetland

    • It is located in the northern part of Tamil Nadu and the southern part of Andhra Pradesh, is the second-largest brackish water ecosystem in India.
    • The Pulicat Ecosystem supports a very rich and diverse biota and acts as a breeding ground for several species of bird and marine life.
    • Pulicat Lake is a biodiversity hotspot that hosts around 250 species of birds, 50 of which are intercontinental species.
    • The lake’s unique hydrology and the presence of more mangrove plantations in its eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) make it a significant habitat for wildlife.
      • It plays a crucial role in the Central Asian Flyway for birds.

    Source: TH

    Syllabus :GS 2/Polity and Governance 

    In  News 

    • The BJP’s candidate from the Surat Lok Sabha constituency in Gujarat has been declared elected unopposed.
      • This follows the rejection of the nomination paper of the candidate set up by the Congress party and the withdrawal of nominations by other candidates.

    What is the law for nomination?

    • Section 33 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act) contains the requirements for a valid nomination.
    • As per the RP Act, an elector above 25 years of age can contest Lok Sabha election from any constituency in India. 
    • The proposer(s) of the candidate should however be elector(s) from that respective constituency where the nomination is being filed. 
    • In case of a recognised party (national or State), the candidate needs to have one proposer. 
    • Candidates set up by unrecognised parties and independents need to be subscribed by ten proposers. 
    • A candidate can file up to four nomination papers with different sets of proposers.
      • This is to enable the acceptance of nomination of a candidate even if one set of nomination papers is in order.
    • Section 36 of the RP Act sets out the law with respect to the scrutiny of nomination papers by the Returning Officer (RO).
      • It provides that the RO shall not reject any nomination for a defect that is not of a substantial character. 
      • However, it specifies that the signature of the candidate or proposer found not genuine is grounds for rejection.
    • The election rules allow for a substitute candidate to be fielded by a political party.
      • The nomination of this substitute candidate would be accepted if the nomination of the original candidate is rejected
    • Legal recourse:  Article 329(b) of the Constitution read with RP Act provides that no election shall be called into question except by an election petition before the concerned High Court.
      • One of the grounds on which such an election petition can be filed is improper rejection of nomination papers.
      •  Hence, the legal recourse available is to file an election petition in the Gujarat High Court.
      • The RP Act provides that High Courts shall endeavour to conclude such trials within six months, which has mostly not been followed in the past.
      • Speedy disposal of election petitions would be a step in the right direction.

    Source:TH

    Syllabus: GS3/Economy

    Context

    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) released a ‘Master Direction’ for Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARCs).

    About

    • According to the directions, to commence the business of securitisation or asset reconstruction, an ARC is required to have a minimum net owned fund (NOF) of Rs 300 crore and thereafter, on an ongoing basis.
    • An ARC shall apply for registration and obtain a certificate of registration (CoR) from the RBI, before commencing the business.
    • No ARC shall invest in land or building, except for investment for its own use up to 10% of its owned funds.
    • ARCs are prohibited from raising money by way of deposit. They are also mandated to maintain a capital adequacy ratio of a minimum of 15% of its total risk-weighted assets.

    Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC)

    • In the Union Budget 2021-22, the Finance Minister announced the setting up of Asset Reconstruction Companies in India to take care of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) of stressed banks. 
    • It is a financial institution that buys the NPA or bad assets from banks and financial institutions so that the latter can clean up their balance sheets.
    • ARCs in India have been set up by state-owned and private-sector banks. Also, there is no equity contribution from the government.
    • ARCs play a critical role in the resolution of stressed financial assets of banks and financial institutions, thereby enhancing the overall health of the financial system.

    Source: TH

    Syllabus : GS 3/Species 

    In  News

    • Vultures, including those residing in protected areas, continue to remain at immense risk from diclofenac, a painkiller that is used for treating cattle. 

    About 

    • The drug was banned for use in veterinary practice across South Asia during the 1990s and early 2000s. 
    • In India, the use of diclofenac as a veterinary drug was banned in 2006.
    • Besides diclofenac, the Indian government has also banned ketoprofen and aceclofenac, although they are still manufactured for human use. 

    Vulture Population in India

    • India has lost 99 per cent of the population of the three species — Oriental White-Backed Vulture, Long-billed Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture
    • The Red-headed and the Egyptian Vulture populations have also crashed by 91 per cent and 80 percent respectively.
    • There are 23 species of vultures found in the world out of which 9 species are found in India.

    Major Threats

    • Use of Diclofenac, Lack of Nesting Trees, Electrocution by power lines, Food Dearth and Contaminated Food, Pesticide poisoning also threaten vultures across the country. 
    • Restoring the population is an uphill task as vultures are slow breeders. If they become extinct, there will be a huge ripple effect.

    Importance of Vultures

    • Act as Natural Scavengers: Feeding on the infected carcass=> Killing of Pathogens=> breaking the chain of infections. 
    • They prevent the contamination of water sources. 
    • Vultures are critically important to the Parsi community. The community leaves its dead atop the Towers of Silence to be consumed by vultures. Now, they use solar accelerators.

    Conservation efforts

    • Vulture Action Plan 2020-25
    • Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme by  Central Zoo Authority (CZA) & BNHS
    • Banning of Diclofenac by Drugs Controller General of India
    • India Signatory to Convention on Migratory Species 
    • In 2015, Tamil Nadu became the first state to ban the veterinary use of ketoprofen in Nilgiri, Erode and Coimbatore districts. 

    Source:DTE

    Syllabus: GS3-S&T/GS2-IR

    Context

    • As per the reports, the United States had quietly shipped off long-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to Ukraine. 

    About Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS)

    • The ATACMS is a conventional surface-to-surface artillery weapon system built by US-based arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
    • Its biggest strengths are the long-range of attack, ability to fire cluster munitions, and the weapon system’s mobility.
    • Range: There is a mid-range version of the ATACMS, called Block 1, and there is a long-range version, Block 1A.
      • ATACMS Block 1 has a range of 165 kilometres and ATACMS Block 1A, on the other hand, has a maximum range of 300 km.
    • The US Army has fielded the ATACMS during Operation Desert Storm where the missile system “performed brilliantly” against Iraq’s air defences.
    • Other countries that use ATACMS include Greece, South Korea, the UAE, Turkey, Romania, Bahrain and Poland.

    Source: Firstpost

    Syllabus: GS2/Polity

    Context

    • In Assam’s tribal-majority Diphu Lok Sabha constituency, candidates of all parties have promised the implementation of Article 244(A) of the Constitution.

    About

    • Diphu is reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs), and covers six legislative Assembly segments in three tribal-majority hill districts of Assam: Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong, and Dima Hasao.
      • These three districts are administered under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, which describes the “Provisions as to the Administration of Tribal Areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram”.
    • Article 244(A) was inserted by The Constitution (Twenty-second Amendment) Act, 1969, which enabled Parliament to pass an Act to “form within the State of Assam an autonomous State comprising (whether wholly or in part) all or any of certain specified tribal areas”, including Karbi Anglong.
      • This autonomous state would have its own Legislature or Council of Ministers or both. 
      • The autonomous councils under the Sixth Schedule have elected representatives for more decentralised governance of these tribal areas, but they have limited legislative powers, do not have control over law and order, and have only limited financial powers.
    • The demand for autonomy is as old as the movement in the hill areas of undivided Assam, which began in the 1950s, seeking a separate hill state.
      • This movement resulted in the creation of the full-fledged state of Meghalaya in 1972 — however, because of the promise extended through Article 244(A), the leaders of the Karbi Anglong region opted to remain with Assam.

    Source: IE