What's New :
13th March 2023 (8 Topics)

13th March 2023

QUIZ - 13th March 2023

5 Questions

5 Minutes

Context

The Centre answering an affidavit disapproved the decision of the Supreme Court to legalise same-sex marriages in India, as any change in a human relationship should come from the legislature, not the court.

About the Case:

  • The affidavit came in response to the Court’s decision to examine petitions to allow the solemnisation of same-sex marriage under the ‘Special Marriage Act, of 1954’.
  • The petitioners had said the 1954 Act should grant same-sex couples the same protection it allowed inter-caste and inter-faith couples who want to marry.

The Centre invoked the “accepted view” that a marriage between a biological man and woman is a “holy union, a sacrament and a sanskar” in India.

  • Thus same-sex marriages can harm Indian culture and values.
  • And any “deviation” from this “statutorily, religiously and socially” accepted norm in “human relationships” can only happen through the legislature and not the Supreme Court.

What were the Centre’s arguments?

    • The government argued that the Court had only decriminalised sexual intercourse between same-sex persons in its 2018 judgment and not legitimised this “conduct”. 
    • The court, while decriminalising homosexuality, had never accepted same-sex marriage as part of the fundamental right to life and dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • Marriage registration of same-sex persons would also result in violation of existing personal and codified law provisions.

Supreme Court’s stand:

  • The Supreme Court of India decriminalized homosexuality by declaring Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional. 
  • The court unanimously ruled that an individual's autonomy, intimacy, and identity are protected fundamental rights. 
  • The LGBTQI Community in India faces legal and social difficulties. Sexual activity between the same genders is legal but they cannot marry or obtain a civil partnership.

Constitutional Provisions related to same-sex marriage:

  • Right to Equality (Article 14), 
  • Right against Discrimination (Article 19) and 
  • The right to Privacy (Article 21) is being affected. 

There is no specific law or act which gives validation or recognition to same-sex marriage and a proper criterion to bring grievances of the LGBTQI+ Community in the eyes of the law.

Who can legislate on issues of Marriage in India?

  • The Parliament has the right to design and frame the marriage laws in the country, which are governed by personal laws and codified laws relatable to the customs of various religious communities.
  • According to those rules, it recognises only the union of a man and a woman to be capable of legal sanction, and thereby claim legal and statutory rights and consequences

Provision under the Special Marriage Act:

  • The Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954 is an Indian law that provides a legal framework for the marriage of people belonging to different religions or castes.
    • It governs a civil marriage where the state sanctions the marriage rather than the religion.
    • The Indian system, where both civil and religious marriages are recognised, is similar to the laws in the UK’s Marriage Act of 1949.
  • Applicability:
    • The applicability of the Act extends to the people of all faiths, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists, across India.
  • Recognition of Marriage:
    • The Act provides for the registration of marriages, which gives legal recognition to the marriage and provides a number of legal benefits and protections to the couple, such as inheritance rights, succession rights, and social security benefits.
    • It forbids polygamy and declares a marriage null and void if either party had a spouse living at the time of the marriage or if either of them is incapable of giving valid consent to the marriage due to unsoundness of mind.
  • Written Notice:
    • Section 5 of the Act specifies that the parties must give written notice to the Marriage Officer of the District and that at least one of the parties must have lived in the district for at least 30 days immediately before the date of such notification.
    • Section 7 of the Act allows any person to object to the marriage before the expiration of 30 days from the date of the notice's publication.
  • Age Limit:
    • The minimum age to get married under the SMA is 21 years for males and 18 years for females.

Context

The recently concluded Budget session of the Rajasthan Assembly revived the debate around the ‘Right to Health Bill’. 

About the Bill:

  • The legislation, if passed, will provide mandatory free and affordable medical services in hospitals, clinics and laboratories — both public and privately owned. 
  • Rajasthan would be the first State government to establish and protect the legal rights of patients to access equitable healthcare services. 
  • The Bill also provides for strengthening the public healthcare system.

Key Features:

  • The Bill provides the right to health and access to healthcare for people in the state. 
  • This includes free health care services at any clinical establishment to state residents.
  • The Bill sets certain obligations on the state government to ensure the right to health and maintain public health.
  • Health Authorities will be set up at the state and district level
  • These bodies will formulate, implement, monitor, and develop mechanisms for quality healthcare and management of public health emergencies.

Constitutional Backing:

  • The Indian Constitution does not explicitly talk about a right to health
  • A “right to health” is derived from the right to life and liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.  

Key Issues and Analysis:

  • There is no provision for reimbursing private health establishments for providing free healthcare services.  This may make these establishments commercially unviable and violate Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
  • The District Health Authority is required to upload an action-taken report on the web portal for complaints.  The Bill does not specify who will have access to the report on the web portal.  This may infringe on the patient’s right to privacy in medical cases.
  • Implementing the right to health may increase the financial obligation of the state.  The Bill does not provide for such additional costs.

Context

Bhutan is consistently ranked one of the happiest in the world and will become the seventh nation to ‘graduate’ from the United Nations (UN) list of Least Developed Countries (LDC).

What is a Least Developed Country (LDC)?

  • The least developed countries are the countries listed by the UN that exhibit the lowest indicators of socioeconomic development
  • Indicators: low levels of income, human capital and economic diversification, high levels of economic vulnerability, and a population that is disproportionately reliant on agriculture, natural resources, and primary commodities. 
  • The concept first originated in the late 1960s and was codified under UN resolution 2768.

Currently, the UN lists 46 countries that qualify as LDCs. 

  • Of those, 33 are from Africa, nine are from Asia, three are from the Pacific and one is from the Caribbean.

Criteria for LDC designation:

  • Calculating Gross National Income (GNI): The country must have a gross national income (GNI) per capita below the threshold of USD 1,230 over a three-year average.
  • Assessing Human Development Index (HDI): The country must perform poorly on a composite human assets index based on indicators including nutrition, health and education.
  • Viability to Disasters: The country must demonstrate economic vulnerability such as being prone to natural disasters and possessing structural economic constraints.

How does a country get off the LDC list?

  • Bangladesh, Laos, and Nepal were suggested for deletion from the list at the UN's triennial review of LDC nations in 2021.
  • For a country to be removed from the status of a least developed country, it must meet 3 criteria
    • A nation must have a GNI per capita of at least USD 1,242 for two consecutive triennial reviews
    • Improved its human capital, by using measures like education, health, and nutrition, in order to achieve the human assets requirement. 
    • Improved its ability to withstand external economic shocks like natural catastrophes or shifts in commodity prices in order to pass the economic vulnerability test.
  • For these, the country has to make concerted efforts to implement a combination of policies, including promoting economic growth through investment in infrastructure, improving governance etc. 
  • Global example: For example, Botswana achieved graduation in 1994 primarily due to its strong economic performance driven by its diamond mining industry and investments in education and infrastructure. 

How did Bhutan get off the LDC list?

  • Socio-economic development: Bhutan has made remarkable progress on a variety of socio-economic metrics.
  • Increased national income: Bhutan’s economy increased more than eight times in the last 20 years. It has an average annual growth rate of more than 7 per cent. 
  • Reduced poverty: percentage of people living in poverty decreased from 17.8 per cent in 2003 to 1.5 per cent in 2017. 
    • The percentage of people living below the national poverty line decreased from 23.2 per cent in 2007 to 8.2 per cent in 2017.
  • Higher exports: Bhutan has mostly accomplished this by increasing hydropower exports to India, which now accounts for 20 per cent of its economy.
    • The nation also established Brand Bhutan in an effort to diversify exports while acknowledging the modest size of its local market.

Advantages of being an LDC:

  • Markets of developed countries: LDCs also enjoy duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) access to the markets of developed countries. Thus,  LDCs are not restricted by trade restrictions or tariffs when exporting their goods to wealthier nations
  • Credit on Special terms: LDCs are also eligible for loans with special terms for development, which include loans with a lower interest rate and a longer repayment time than those given to other nations. 

Context

Recently, the wheat crop was sown in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, during the first half of November, which is in the initial stages already get affected by several ups and downs, estimating an unpredictable situation for both farmers and consumers. 

Factors affecting wheat production:

  • A matter of temperatures: The maximum temperature for grain–filling shouldn’t cross 37 degrees before March's end. 
  • The crop is ready for harvest once the grains have ripened and moisture levels reduced to 12-13% by rising temperatures. 
  •  Last year, maximum temperatures breached the 35-degree mark in the northern plains by mid-March and 40 degrees before the month-end, which impacted the yields 
  • Government procurement: Government procurement was one of the reasons behind the marginal dip in the country’s wheat output (from 109.59 MT in 2020-21 to107mt in 2021-22
  • Global price relief: FAO food price index hit a historic high of 159.7 points in March 2022 during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • However, since then, the FAO index has fallen every month to touch 129.8 points in February 2023. 

How does it impact the farmers and consumers?

  • The expected procurement would be able to meet the requirements of the public distribution system, midday meals and other regular welfare schemes, whose annual wheat requirement is around 26 MT. 
  • However, it will fall short of meeting the commitments of special schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) scheme.
  • Second, the government will not be able to supply wheat to flour millers and other bulk consumers to moderate open market prices during the lean months after October.
  • Third, the price of wheat may rise further due to lower production and huge export demand. This may enhance food inflation in the country and also increase the food subsidy bill of the government which is likely to cross INR 2.8 lakh crore this fiscal.

Context

The evolution of Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) laws and regulations is, however, still at a nascent stage in India, where the focus is often on providing protections regarding the environment or workplace conditions without incorporating the controls and disclosure of contemporary ESG regulation.

What are ESG STANDARDS?

  • Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals are a set of standards for a company’s operations that force companies to follow better governance, ethical practices, environment-friendly measures and social responsibility.
  • Measurement of the company is not restricted to just the economic parameter which includes such as shareholder return. But they are also measured by their environmental impact, commitment to social issues and the soundness of their corporate governance and protection of shareholder rights.
  •  The evolution of ESG laws and regulations is, however, still at a nascent stage in India,

How ESG differs from CSR?

  • India has a robust corporate responsibility policy that mandates that corporations engage in initiatives that contribute to the welfare of society.
    • In India, the concept of CSR is governed by clause 135 of the Companies Act, 2013.
    • The Act encourages companies to spend 2% of their average net profit in the previous three years on CSR activities.
    • The indicative activities, which can be undertaken by a company under CSR, have been specified under Schedule VII of the Act.  These include Eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, Promotion of education, gender equality and empowering women etc. 
  • While ESG regulations differ in process and impact. 
    • For Instance, The U.K. Modern Slavery Act requires companies with business in the U.K. and with annual sales of more than £36 million to publish the efforts they have taken to identify and analyse the risks of human trafficking, child labour and debt bondage in their supply chain; establish internal accountability procedure. 
    • The EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation requires banks, pension funds, asset managers and other financial market participants to disclose how they have integrated sustainability risks into their investment decision-making processes. 

Why is ESG relevant in India?

  • India has a plethora of legislations and institutions regarding environmental, social and governance issues. 
    • Some of them are the Environment Protection Act of 1986, and quasi-judicial organisations such as the National Green Tribunal etc.
  • While these laws and bodies provide important environmental and social safeguards, new initiatives in India go further, establishing guidelines that emphasise monitoring, quantification and disclosure. 
  • Indian active engagement in environmental policy: Recently, RBI said it would be auctioning 80 billion rs in green bonds. Also, the government has committed to be net neutral by 2070;
  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has substantially revised the annual Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) required by the 1,000 largest listed companies in India.
  • SEBI describes the current report format as a “notable departure” from previous disclosure requirements, which are aligned with evolving global standards. 
    • Disclosures range from greenhouse gas emissions to the company’s gender and social diversity. 

What are the challenges in the adoption of ESG Norms?

  • Reluctance among corporates: there is reluctance among corporates to adopt sustainability measures as they increase costs (e.g., installation and operating costs of an effluent treatment plant that reduces the efflux of harmful pollutants to rivers/water bodies).
  • Absence of universally recognized ESG reporting standards:  The investors and corporates have been using different frameworks like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) etc.
  • Against climate equity: It would be equivalent to undermining the efforts made for equity and climate justice to require reporting on environmental standards under the ESG framework that goes beyond a country's commitments (like INDC).

Way forward

  • Standard parameters: There should be uniformity across various reporting standards and create a standard ESG Reporting Framework. 
  • Robust internal ESG Frameworks: There should a well-thought-out ESG framework which is comprehensive in nature. 
  • It should not just include environmental sustainability but should also cover social and governance issues. 

 Increase awareness: there is a need to increase awareness about the ESG norms among investors. This will influence businesses to adopt sustainability measures.

Context

Recently, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report says that Antarctic sea ice cover recorded a low for a second consecutive year while the Arctic sea ice extent is also at an all-time minimum.

Findings of the report:

  • Sea ice levels in Antarctica shrunk to the lowest on record in February 2023 for the second consecutive year.

Sea ice extent is the area of ice spread across the Arctic Ocean at any given time.

  • Arctic ice is warming more than twice compared of average global warming, causing it to retreat dramatically over 45 years. 
  • Scientists are yet to determine whether the occurrence resulted from natural weather fluctuation or the long-term melting trend due to climate change is to be blamed for the same. 

Ice extent in Numbers:

  • The September 2022 extent was 4.87 million km2 or 1.54 million below the long-term mean extent.
  • Antarctic sea-ice extent dropped to 1.92 million km2 on 25 February, the lowest level on record and almost 1 million km2 below the long-term average.

About the Poles:

  • The Arctic region: 
    • The Arctic is a polar region located in the northernmost part of Earth.
    • Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover.
    • It consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden.
  • Antarctica
    • Antarctica is the world's southernmost continent. 
    • It contains the geographic South Pole, which is located almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle and surrounded by the Southern Ocean.

Significance of the ice at poles:

  • Radiate Solar heat: The sea ice bounces sunlight back into space thus maintaining the heat budget.
    • To maintain temperature: Radiating sunlight back into space by the sea ice plays a crucial role in maintaining ocean and air temperatures, which is important for the survival of life. 
    • Influence weather conditions: The ice spread influences the global, regional and local weather conditions and vice versa.

Factors responsible for Ice melt events:

  • Changes in the amount of air pollution coming from Europe and natural multi-decade climate variations likely play a role.
  • But human-caused global warming is the underlying reason that the Arctic, and the planet as a whole, are heating up.
  • The Arctic Circle is mostly ocean, which used to be frozen for most or all of the year.
  • But permanent sea ice is steadily shrinking, and seasonal ice is melting earlier in the year and re-forming later.
  • That means more open water. But while ice is bright and reflects heat from the sun, water is darker and absorbs it.
  • That heat helps melt more ice, which means more water to trap more heat – the loop feeds on itself, accelerating warming in the Arctic.
  • This feedback loop is largely responsible for what is known as Arctic amplification.

Effect on Arctic and Antarctica:

  • Indigenous peoples in both the Arctic and mountain regions have been among the earliest affected.

What is the impact on India?

  • Effect on Monsoon: In recent years, scientists have pondered over the impact the changing Arctic can have on the monsoons in the subcontinent.
    • The link between the two is growing in importance due to the extreme weather events the country faces, and the heavy reliance on rainfall for water and food security.
  • Sea level rise: According to the World Meteorological Organization’s report, ‘State of Global Climate in 2021’, sea level along the Indian coast is rising faster than the global average rate.
    • One of the primary reasons for this rise is the melting of sea ice in the Polar Regions, especially the Arctic. 

Polity and Governance 

Railways’ Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)

The Ministry of Railways has rolled out Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to ensure the safety of such sensitive consignments and their escort personnel.

About:

  • The step was taken in order to provide standard guidelines for security to transportation of arms and ammunition by train and road.
  • The SOP gave detailed guidelines on other aspects of security arrangements and steps to be taken in the event of an emergency while transporting arms and ammunition by rail and road.
  • The armed security escort personnel drawn from the RPF/RPSF should be deployed taking into account the prevailing security scenario in the route of the transportation of arms and ammunition. 

Polity and Governance 

Unique Land Parcel Identification Number (ULPIN) or Bhu-Aadhar

Department of Land Resources is organizing the National Conference - Bhumi Samvaad IV on implementation of Unique Land Parcel Identification Number (ULPIN) or Bhu-Aadhaar on 17th March 2023 in New Delhi.

About the conference:

  • The theme of the National Conference is - "Digitizing and Geo-Referencing INDIA with Bhu-Aadhaar (ULPIN)". 
  • This conference is being organized under Bhumi-Samvaad series of Dialogues and Deliberations of Land Administration and Governance in the country. 
  • It is the 4th such conference with States/ UTs, Ministries and Departments, other stakeholders like Geospatial community, startups, academia.

The ULPIN:

  • The Bhu-Aadhaar or ULPIN is a 14-digit alpha-numeric number generated based on the latitude-longitude of the vertices of each land parcel. 
  • It is a single, authoritative source of truth of information on any parcel of land or property to provide integrated land services to the citizens as well as all stakeholders.

Science and Technology 

H3N2 influenza Virus






With 59 cases of H3N2 detected in Odisha, the state government has asked the district authorities to intensify ILI and SARI surveillance and suggested citizens to maintain personal hygiene and avoid crowded places.

What is ILI and SARI?

  • The WHO global influenza surveillance standards define the surveillance case definitions for influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infections (SARI).
  • ILI occurs because the signs and symptoms of influenza are not specific and most persons who have a respiratory illness are not tested for influenza.
  • ILI has been defined for surveillance purposes as an illness with fever or feverishness plus either cough or sore throat.

About H3N2 virus:

  • H1N1 and H3N2 are subtypes of Influenza A virus
  • It is a common flu virus found in children and the elderly from December to March.
  • The government maintained that influenza virus is a common seasonal virus which caused fever, cough and running nose. 
  • In persons with comorbidity or are elderly it may give rise to respiratory complications.

Science and Technology 

MAIA mission








NASA and the Italian Space Agency are partnering on the MAIA mission which will use data from an Earth observation satellite to help scientists find correlations between air pollution and health problems in major cities across the world including New Delhi.

About:

  • MAIA stands for the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols missions
  • Aim: The joint mission between the two national space agencies will investigate the health impacts of air pollution in the world’s most populated cities.
  • Significance: MAIA is the first mission by the agency whose primary goal is to benefit societal health. Epidemiologists and public health researchers will be directly working on the development of a satellite mission.

Key features:

  • The MAIA observatory, which is set to launch before the end of 2024 will consist of the PLATiNO-2 satellite, which will be provided by ASI, and a science instrument that will be built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). 
  • The MAIA mission will collect and analyse data from the observatory, sensors on the ground and atmospheric models.

Science and Technology 

Fluorescence microscopy



In 2014, a group of scientists at Stanford University released Foldscope, a fluorescence microscope, which takes 30 minutes to capture images of cells.

About 

  • An optical microscope views an object by studying how it absorbs, reflects or scatters visible light. 
  • A fluorescence microscope views an object by studying how it reemits light that it has absorbed, i.e. how it fluoresces.
  • The object is illuminated with light of a specific wavelength. 
  • Particles in the object absorb this light and reemit it at a higher wavelength (i.e. different colour). 
  • These particles are called fluorophores; the object is infused with them before being placed under the microscope.
  • A fluorescent microscope can track the microorganisms as they move inside the object, revealing the object’s internal shape and other characteristics.

Context:

  • The Minister of state for IT has mentioned that the government is going to replace IT Act 2000, as a new Digital India Act 2023, which will overcome the loopholes of the existing legislation.

Digital India Act 2023:

  • About the rule: The new law acquires significance as the government has been working towards increasing the compliance burden on Internet intermediaries, in particular in the IT Rules 2021 and its later amendments. 
  • Regarding content posted/delivered: These Rules themselves had put the onus on social media intermediaries to arbitrate on content on their platforms with regulations that were weighted in favour of the government of the day.
  • Need of the law: The government has invited legal appeals as digital news media platforms among others questioned the constitutionality of the Rules.

Journey so far:

  • Amendments in IT Rules 2020: An amendment in October 2022 provided for government-appointed committees that will adjudicate on an individual user’s appeals against moderation decisions of these intermediaries. 
  • Different handling agencies: In January 2023, the IT Ministry proposed an amendment on the take down of social media/news content that has been marked as “fake” or “false” by the Press Information Bureau or any other government agency.  
  • For safety and security: The laws had already put the safe harbour protections for intermediaries at much risk via several amendments. 
You must be logged in to get greater insights.

Verifying, please be patient.

Enquire Now