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15th March 2023 (7 Topics)

15th March 2023

QUIZ - 15th March 2023

5 Questions

5 Minutes

Context

The US, UK and Australia have unveiled details of their plan to create a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, aimed at countering China's influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Background:

  • More than a year after the AUKUS pact was signed on September 2021, the US, UK, and Australia have finally revealed details of their plan to build a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia. 
  • In June 2022, US lawmakers introduced a bill called the ‘Australia-US Submarine Officer Pipeline Act’ to train Royal Australian Navy officers in the operation of nuclear submarines.

AUKUS:

  • Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. (AUKUS) have come together to establish a new trilateral security partnership for the Indo-Pacific called the AUKUS.
  • Aim: The historic grouping will advance strategic interests, uphold the international rules-based order, along with generating hundreds of high-skilled jobs.
  • Under the first major initiative of AUKUS, Australia would build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines with the help of the US and the UK, a capability aimed at promoting stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

About the agreement:

    • Under the AUKUS agreement, which is aimed at preserving a “free and open” Indo Pacific, Australia will buy three American nuclear submarines.
  • It includes a commitment to cooperate on building artificial intelligence capabilities, hypersonic weapons and other advanced technologies.
  • Australia and Britain will also start building a new submarine model with US technology and support, with the UK expected to deliver its first home-built nuclear submarine by the late 2030s. 

Key features:

  • The British work to replace their Astute-class submarines will be “leveraged” to continue design and development work on a brand-new submarine known as ‘the SSN-AUKUS’.
  • Submarine, which will eventually be operated by the UK and Australia employing US combat systems, will be referred to as the ‘AUKUS class’.
  • Funding mechanism: Australia will also provide $3 billion over the next four years to production lines in the US and the UK as part of its financial commitment, with the US receiving the majority of the funding for improvement.

What is a nuclear-powered submarine?

  • A nuclear-powered submarine is powered by a nuclear reactor.
  • But it is not a nuclear weapon.
  • Every nuclear-powered submarine draws from its own miniature nuclear reactor on board, which is typically fuelled with uranium.
  • For such a reactor to work, uranium has to be ‘enriched’ to contain 50 per cent of a key isotope, uranium-235.
  • Natural uranium consists of approximately 99.3 per cent of the isotope uranium-238 and only 0.7 per cent of uranium-235.
  • The process of enrichment can be carried out through gaseous diffusion, gas centrifuges or laser isotope separation.
  • Only six nations own and operate these submarines currently: China, France, India, Russia, the UK and the US.

Types of nuclear-powered submarines:

  • Nuclear-powered submarines can be divided into three broad categories:
    • the nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines or SSNs
    • the nuclear-powered ballistic submarines or SSBNs
    • the nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines or SSGNs

SSNs are the oldest type of nuclear-powered submarines and the first of these, the American-made Nautilus, was deployed in 1954 by the US.

India and the nuclear submarine industry:

  • The Navy currently has 15 conventional submarines-
  • eight Russian Kilo class ones
  • four German HDWs
  • Three Scorpenes and nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) INS Arihant.
  • Second indigenous SSBN Arighat, now in advanced stages of sea trials, is expected to be commissioned next year along with indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant, which recently began sea trials, the two officials remarked.
  • Akula class SSN Chakra, on a decade-long lease from Russia, has been returned recently, slightly ahead of schedule.
  • India has already signed a deal for the lease of another such submarine and the project is underway.
  • Given the delays, India is also considering leasing one more Akula class SSN.
  • It does not have a nuclear-powered conventional attack submarine.

Context

The Supreme Court has dismissed a curative petition filed by the Centre, seeking ‘additional funds’ from ‘Union Carbide Corporations’ successor firms for extending higher compensation to victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, which led to the deaths of 3,000 people and caused significant environmental damage.

About the Case:

  • The Centre’s claim for a curative petition was based on a demand for additional compensation in a re-examination of the Supreme Court’s 1989 order where compensation was decided as Rs. 750 crores.
  • The plea also sought a relook at the Court’s orders relating to modes of payment and settlement, on grounds that the settlement was based on an incorrect estimate of the total number of deaths, injuries, and losses
  • It added that the environmental damage caused was never factored in, and thus sought to reopen the settlement on the basis of fresh documents.
  • According to the plea, the previous figure for deaths stood at 3,000 and for injuries at 70,000. 
  • However, the Central government contended that the actual number of deaths was 5,295, whereas injuries reached 5, 27,894.

Supreme Court’s stand:

  • The Court mentioned that the claimants had been provided more compensation than what was reasonably awarded to them under the law.
  • Responsibility was placed on the Union of India, being a welfare state, to make good the deficiency and to take out the relevant insurance policy.

Bhopal gas Tragedy, 1984:

  • In the early hours of December 3, 1984, methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from a plant operated by Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) at Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh). 
  • Methyl isocyanate (MIC) is a colourless highly flammable liquid that evaporates quickly when exposed to the air. It has a sharp, strong odour. 
  • It is used in the production of pesticides, polyurethane foam, and plastics.
  • MIC is safe when maintained properly. 
  • The chemical is highly reactive to heat. When exposed to water, the compounds in MIC react with each other causing a heat reaction.
  • The gas drifted over the densely populated neighbourhoods around the plant, killing thousands of people immediately and creating a panic as tens of thousands of others attempted to flee Bhopal. 
  • The final death toll was estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000
  • Some half a million survivors suffered respiratory problems, eye irritation or blindness, muscular dystrophy and other maladies resulting from exposure to the toxic gas.
  • The study found out that babies born to women exposed to gas were significantly more likely to have “congenital malformations” than those born to women unexposed to gas.

Govt's response to Bhopal tragedy:

  • The government passed the Bhopal Gas Leak Act in March 1985, which allowed it to act as the legal representative for victims.
  • The Supreme Court of India also laid down guidelines for the money — the family of the dead were to be given Rs.100, 000-300,000.
  • In addition, fully or partially disabled were to get Rs 50,000-500,000 and those with a temporary injury, Rs 25,000-100,000.
  • In June 2010, seven former employees of Union Carbide, who were all Indian nationals, were convicted of causing death by negligence and sentenced to two years of imprisonment.

Context

The State government of Manipur has decided to withdraw from the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with two hill-based tribal militant groups, alleging they were “influencing agitation among forest encroachers”.

Background:

  • Kuki groups have fought the Indian government for an ‘independent Kuki homeland’, spread across Manipur.
  • The Kuki insurgency gained momentum after ethnic clashes with the Nagas of Manipur in the early 1990s, with the Kuki arming them against Naga aggression.
  • While the two tribes have shared a hostile relationship since colonial times, things came to a head in the 1990s when the Naga-Kuki clashes took place. 

About:

  • The state government claimed that a protest rally organised against section 144, was influenced by the two groups, Kuki National Army (KNA) and Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA).

Section 144:

  • Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 authorises the Executive Magistrate of any state or territory to issue an order to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area.
  •  According to the law, every member of such 'unlawful assembly' can be booked for engaging in rioting.

What is the Suspension of Operations pact?

  • The SoO pact was signed on August 22, 2008.
  • Objective: For initiating political dialogue with the militant groups.
  • Reason: The Kuki outfits who were initially demanding a separate Kuki state have come down to a ‘Kukiland territorial council’, which would have financial and administrative powers independent of the Manipur Assembly and government.

There are nearly 30 Kuki insurgent groups in Manipur, of which 25 are under tripartite Suspension of Operations (SoO) with the Government of India and the state.

  • Time-period: The duration of the Suspension of Operation agreement is one year, it is extendable according to the progress of its implementation.
  • Implementation: To oversee the effective implementation of the SoO pact, a committee called the Joint Monitoring Group (JMG), with representatives from all the signatories, has been formed.
  • Signatories of the agreement
    • The signatories of UPF and KNO shall abide by the Constitution of India, the laws of the land and the territorial integrity of Manipur. 
    • They are prohibited from committing all kinds of atrocities, extortion, among others.
  • Provisions of the agreement:
    • The militant cadres are to be confined in designated camps identified by the Government. 
    • Arms are deposited in a safe room under a double-locking system. 
    • The groups are given arms only to guard their camps and protect their leaders.
    • As a rehabilitation package, the UG cadres living in the designated camps are given a monthly stipend of Rs.5000. 
    • Financial assistance is also being provided to maintain the designated camps.

Context

Banks from 18 countries have been permitted by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to open Special Vostro Rupee Accounts (SVRAs) for settling payments in Indian rupees.

Background:

  • The process of SVRAs began in July 2022 when the RBI announced to put in place an additional arrangement for invoicing, payment, and settlement of exports/imports in INR.
  • India has been supporting the idea of trade in local currency mainly to boost exports

What are Special Vostro accounts?

  • A vostro account is an account that domestic banks hold for foreign banks in the former’s domestic currency.
  • Domestic banks use it to provide international banking services to their clients who have global banking needs.
  • It is an integral offshoot of correspondent banking that entails a bank (or an intermediary) to facilitate wire transfer, conduct business transactions, accept deposits and gather documents on behalf of the other bank.
  • It helps domestic banks gain wider access to foreign financial markets and serve international clients without having to be physically present abroad.
  • The SRVA is an additional arrangement to the existing system that uses freely convertible currencies and works as a complimentary system.

Significance:

  • To Facilitate Trade: Indian exporters could get advance payments in INR from overseas clients and in the long-term promote INR as an international currency once the rupee settlement mechanism gains traction.

About the initiative:

  • SVRAs could be set up by banks of partner countries by approaching Authorised Dealer (AD) banks in India that may get permission from the RBI after the due procedure.
  • The RBI had granted approval to domestic and foreign AD Banks in 60 cases for opening SRVAs of banks from 18 nations.
  • The countries includes Botswana, Fiji, Germany, Guyana, Israel, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Oman, Russia, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda and the United Kingdom.
  • Procedures for trade in INR have been delineated by RBI in the Circular (No 10 RBI/2022-2023/90 dated on ‘International Trade Settlement in Indian rupees’. 
  • RBI has clarified matters related to operationalization of SRVAs through FAQs, which are available to banks, importers and exporters etc.

What is the eligibility criterion of banks?

  • Authorised banks can open multiple SRV accounts for different banks from the same country.
  • Further, balances in the account can be repatriated in freely convertible currency and/or currency of the beneficiary partner country depending on the underlying transaction, that is, for which the account was credited.
  • Domestic banks must also put forth for perusal, financial parameters pertaining to the corresponding bank.

Context

According to a research by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s (ICAR) Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), the carbon footprint of the marine fisheries sector in India is much lower than the global figure.

Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI):

  • CMFRI is the largest marine fisheries research institute in India.
  • Established in: 1947
  • Headquarter: Kochi, Kerala.
  • Parent Body: Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
  • CMFRI has developed a unique method for estimation of fishery catch called the "Stratified Multistage Random Sampling Method”. With this methodology the Institute is maintaining the National Marine Fisheries Data Centre (NMFDC).

About the study:

  • Objective: This is the assessment of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from total activities in the sector, from pre-harvesting to marketing, by converting it into CO2 equivalent.
  • The study was presented at a review meeting of the fisheries component of the network research project National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) of the ICAR held in Kochi.
  • Key features:
    • The study was conducted at selected fishing centres at all maritime states of the country, dividing the fishing-related activities into three phases — pre-harvesting, harvesting and post-harvesting.
    • The NICRA research project was aimed at studying the impact of climate change on agriculture including crops, livestock, horticulture and fisheries and to develop and promote climate resilient technologies, thereby addressing vulnerable areas of the country.
  • Findings
    • At 1.32 tonnes of CO2 (carbon dioxide) produced per tonne of fish in India.
    • India’s carbon footprint is much lower than the global figure of more than 2 tonnes of carbon emission per tonne of fish.
    • The CMFRI identified cyclone proneness, flood proneness, shoreline changes, heat waves and sea level rise as major hazards that could affect coastal lives.
  • Works on a Coastal Climate Risk Atlas that marks areas of risk, including hazards and vulnerabilities in all coastal districts in India, are in progress.

India’s Marine sector:

  • The importance and the role of the fisheries sector were officially recognized in India, through the enactment of the ‘Indian Fisheries Act’ in 1897.
  • The first Five-year plan (1951—56) of the Government of India, drew the canvas of the Fisheries sector (both Marine and Inland Fisheries sector).
  • It was followed by the creation of an independent Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying in 2019.

Highlights of the Fisheries Sector:

  • The culture of Pangassius and mono-sex Tilapia, native catfishes, and freshwater prawns are picking up due to culture-based production being adopted at a faster pace.
  • Three Major Carp (IMC) species- Catla, Rohu, and Mrigal together contribute a lion’s share in production.
  • In the shrimp segment, most of the production comes from vannamei.
  • Rainbow trout culture and rehabilitation of native Mahaseer in cold waters of the Himalayan corridor are promising ventures.

Government Policies:

  • Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY):
    • PMMSY is a flagship scheme for focused and sustainable development of the fisheries sector in the country as a part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
    • Under PMMSY, over a span of five years (FY 2020-25), an investment worth Rs 20,050 crore has been envisaged for the fisheries sector.
    • PMMSY puts special emphasis on employment generation for SC, ST communities, and women.
  • Livelihood and nutritional support:
    • It has been provided for 13.99 lakh (FY 2020 to date) socio-economically backward active traditional fishers’ families during the seasonal fishing ban/lean period.
    • For safety net, 31.89 lakh fishers have been insured under the Group Accidental Insurance Scheme (GAIS).
    • The insurance premium under GAIS is 100 percent borne by central and state governments.

International Relations 

Doha Political Declaration

The Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) concluded with adoption of the ‘Doha Political Declaration’ by the world leaders.

About:

  • Doha Programme of Action (DPoA) is a 10-year plan to put the world’s 46 most vulnerable countries back on track to achieving the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). 
  • The declaration made by the head of the states is a key outcome of the second part of LDC5 conference held under the theme “From Potential to Prosperity” at Qatar from March 5-9, 2023.
  • It was adopted a year after the text of DPoA for the Decade (2022-2031) was agreed upon during the first part of the LDC5 conference on March 17, 2022 in New York.  
  • DPoA (2022-2031) consisted of six key focus areas including:
  • Eradicating poverty, 
  • Leveraging the potential of science and technology to fight against multidimensional vulnerabilities and to achieve the SDGs, 
  • Addressing climate change, environmental degradation, recovering from COVID-19 pandemic and 
  • Building resilience against future shocks?for risk-informed sustainable development.

Economy 

First semiconductor fab

The first semiconductor fab is going to unveil and India is poised for a vibrant chip industry in the next 3-4 years on the back of enabling policies and the government's firm commitment towards growing the manufacturing ecosystem.

About:

  • A semiconductor fab is a manufacturing plant in which raw silicon wafers are turned into integrated circuits. 
  • A fab lab features a clean room where the environment is controlled to eliminate dust and vibration and keep the temperature and humidity within a narrow range.
  • In the clean room, the integrated circuits are etched onto wafers through photolithography, a process that involves photographing the circuit pattern on a photosensitive substrate and chemically etching away the background.

Science and Technology 

VSHORADS missile

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have conducted two consecutive successful flight tests of Very Short Range Air Defence System (VSHORADS) missiles.

About:

  • The tests were carried out from a ground-based man portable launcher against high speed unmanned aerial targets. 
  • The targets were successfully intercepted, meeting all mission objectives.

Very Short Range Air Defence System (VSHORADS) missiles:

  • VSHORADS missile incorporates many novel technologies including miniaturized Reaction Control System (RCS) and integrated avionics, which have been successfully proven during the tests.
  • The missile, meant for neutralizing low-altitude aerial threats at short ranges.
  • The design of the missile including launcher has been highly optimized to ensure easy portability.
  • The missile incorporates many novel technologies including Dual-band IIR Seeker, miniaturised reaction control system and integrated avionics. 
  • The propulsion is provided by a dual thrust solid motor.

Environment 

IPCC meet in Switzerland

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is organised meeting in Switzerland this week to finalise the last report of its sixth assessment cycle.

About IPCC:

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change.
  • The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • It aims to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

Highlights of the Sixth assessment report:

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  • As part of the sixth assessment cycle, the IPCC published three comprehensive reports:
    • On scientific evidence for climate change, 
    • On impacts and vulnerabilities, and 
    • On mitigation options available.
  • Besides these, special reports on the feasibility of keeping global temperature rise within the 1.5 degree Celsius limit and the connections between land, ocean and Cryosphere.

Editorial

Context:

  • The Supreme Court’s decision to refer to a Constitution Bench the issue of granting legal recognition to same-sex marriages can be seen as an important step towards ensuring gender equality, despite apprehension that it is encroaching on the legislative domain.

Case for same sex marriages:

  • Petitioners’ view:    Petitioners before the Court view the idea of giving of legal status for marriages between people belonging to the same sex as a natural consequence of the 2018 judgment decriminalising homosexuality.
  • Government’s view:   The Government contends that there is no need to depart from the heteronormative understanding of marriage and if such an idea will be needed, there ought to be such a change, it must come from the legislature.
  • Court’s Intervention: The Supreme Court in its judgement in 2018 decriminalised homosexuality and legalised sexual intercourse among LGBTQ+ Community.

India and laws for same sex marriages:

  • Special Marriage Act, 1954: The act allows the solemnisation of a marriage between any two persons and is used by those who are unable to register their marriages under their respective personal laws.
  • Right to Marriage: The Union government has argued that the decriminalisation of consensual relations between adults of the same sex has removed the stigma attached to homosexuality, but has not conferred the right of marriage. 

Legislative power for marriage provisions: And that the state is entitled to limit its recognition to marriages involving heterosexual couples.

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