Daily Prelims Notes 7 November 2023
- November 7, 2023
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN
Daily Prelims Notes
7 November 2023
Table Of Contents
- INDIA’S AGRICULTURAL EXPORTS DECLINE
- Issue of Food Subsidy in India
- A telco double dip attempt that threatens Net neutrality
- expands ‘Bharat Atta’ sale to curb rising prices
- More light, less sound
- States in Court against their Governors
- .IIT Madras opens offshore campus in Zanzibar, Tanzania
- Standing panel adopts reports on criminal laws
- Appointment of new CIC
- The Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) initiative, announced by the Quad grouping
- ‘Deepfake’ video showing Rashmika Mandanna: How to identify fake videos
- GRAP Stage 4 implemented in Delhi-NCR amid severe air pollution: What does it mean?
Section: External sector
Impact of Global Prices:
- Farm exports decreased by 11.6% in April-September 2023.
- Farm trade surplus declined marginally from $7.4 billion to $7.2 billion in 2023.
Impact of Export Curbs:
- Government restrictions, like bans and duties, contributed to falling farm exports.
- Wheat, rice, and sugar faced bans or restrictions leading to plummeting exports.
Concerns for Farmers:
- Declining international prices impacted cost competitiveness and increased vulnerability to imports.
- Cotton and edible oils, especially soyabean, faced significant challenges due to global price fluctuations.
Effect on India’s Agricultural Trade:
- India’s farm exports hit an all-time high in 2021-22 and 2022-23 but declined in 2023-24.
- The country’s agricultural trade is closely correlated with global prices, which have recently decreased.
Policy Measures and Impact:
- Government restrictions on exports were introduced to manage domestic availability and inflation concerns.
- Focus on controlling food inflation influenced the government’s stance on import and export regulations.
- Farmers faced a double whammy as global price fluctuations affected their export competitiveness and increased their vulnerability to imports.
- Import duties on essential commodities like edible oils and pulses continued, further impacting the farming community.
- Farmer Connect Portal: APEDA established a Farmer Connect Portal on its website for fostering interaction between Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) and Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs) with exporters.
- Establishment: The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) was founded under the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act 1985.
- Mandate: It facilitates the export of agricultural and processed food products from India, operating under the Ministry of Commerce and Industries.
- Scheduled Products: APEDA is responsible for the export promotion and development of various scheduled products, including fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, dairy, confectionery, and more.
- Chairman: Appointed by the Central Government.
- Director: Appointed by APEDA.
- Secretary: Appointed by the Central Government.
- Other Officers and Staff: Appointed by the Authority.
About Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO):
- An FPO is a registered entity comprising a group of farm producers, where the producers are shareholders.
- It engages in various business activities related to agricultural produce, aiming to benefit the member producers.
Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES):
- Objective: TIES aims to develop and upgrade export-related infrastructure and provide assistance for setting up and upgrading infrastructure projects with an export link.
- Focus Areas: The scheme emphasizes addressing the issues related to the export value chain, including the creation of quality infrastructure, capacity building, and modernization of infrastructure.
- Implementation: TIES is implemented by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Market Access Initiatives (MAI) Scheme:
- Objective: MAI Scheme is designed to assist exporters and export organizations in accessing and expanding their markets.
- Focus Areas: It primarily focuses on market studies, market entry expenses, and other export promotion activities to facilitate market access for Indian products.
- Implementation: The scheme is implemented by the Department of Commerce, Government of India, to promote India’s exports.
Export Promotion Schemes of APEDA:
- Objective: APEDA’s export promotion schemes aim to promote and develop export-oriented activities for various agricultural and processed food products from India.
- Incentives: These schemes provide incentives, subsidies, and assistance for various activities related to the export of scheduled products, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, dairy, and more.
- Implementation: The export promotion schemes of APEDA are administered by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industries.
- Objective: The Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) is a part of the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) of India 2015-20. It aims to offset infrastructural inefficiencies and associated costs involved in the export of goods/products manufactured in India, particularly those with high export intensity and employment potential, thereby enhancing India’s export competitiveness.
- Implementation: The scheme is notified by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) and implemented by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
- Incentives: MEIS provides rewards in the form of duty credit scrips to exporters, allowing them to import inputs or goods without paying duty. These scrips can be used to pay various duties, including the basic customs duty.
- Replaced Schemes: MEIS replaced several other incentive schemes from the previous Foreign Trade Policy 2009-14, including the Focus Product Scheme (FPS), Focus Market Scheme (FMS), Market Linked Focus Product Scheme (MLFPS), Infrastructure Incentive Scheme, and Vishesh Krishi Gramin Upaj Yojana (VKGUY).
Foreign Trade Policy (FTP):
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry launched the Foreign Trade Policy 2023, which will come into effect from April 1, 2023.
The Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) 2023 is a comprehensive framework aimed at facilitating exports and trade, fostering partnerships with exporters, and streamlining processes for businesses.
It is built on the principles of trust and partnership, promoting a responsive and agile environment for trade. Some key details of the FTP 2023 include:
- Process Re-Engineering and Automation:
- Shift from an incentive-based regime to a facilitating regime, emphasizing technology interface and collaboration.
- Reduction in fee structures and IT-based schemes for enhanced accessibility to export benefits, particularly for MSMEs.
- Implementation of duty exemption schemes for export production through Regional Offices in a rule-based IT system environment, reducing manual intervention.
- Towns of Export Excellence (TEE):
- Addition of four new towns, namely Faridabad, Mirzapur, Moradabad, and Varanasi, as TEEs, in addition to the existing 39 towns.
- Priority access to export promotion funds under the MAI scheme and Common Service Provider (CSP) benefits under the EPCG Scheme for TEEs.
- Recognition of Exporters:
- Exporter firms recognized with ‘status’ based on export performance will participate in capacity-building initiatives.
- Encouragement for 2-star and above status holders to provide trade-related training based on a model curriculum.
- Promoting Export from the Districts:
- Establishment of partnerships with State governments and the Districts as Export Hubs (DEH) initiative to boost exports at the grassroots level.
- Introduction of State Export Promotion Committee and District Export Promotion Committee for addressing concerns at the district level.
- Streamlining SCOMET Policy:
- Strengthening the “export control” regime with enhanced outreach and understanding of SCOMET among stakeholders.
- Implementation of a robust export control system in India to facilitate controlled items/technologies under SCOMET.
- Facilitating E-Commerce Exports:
- Development of e-commerce hubs and related elements such as payment reconciliation, book-keeping, and returns policy.
- Increase in the consignment-wise cap on E-Commerce exports through courier from ₹5 Lakh to ₹10 Lakh in the FTP 2023.
- Facilitation under EPCG and Advance Authorization Scheme:
- Rationalization of the EPCG Scheme with the addition of schemes like PM MITRA and exemptions for the dairy sector.
- Inclusion of various green technology products under the reduced Export Obligation requirement under the EPCG Scheme.
- Extension of the Special Advance Authorization Scheme to the apparel and clothing sector for prompt execution of export orders.
- Amnesty Scheme:
- Launch of an online portal and a six-month window for exporters to avail the scheme.
- Coverage of all pending cases of default in export obligation of authorizations, regularized on the payment of all customs duties exempted proportionally to unfulfilled export obligations.
The previous foreign trade policy for 2015-2020 had targeted exports of USD 900 billion by 2020, which was extended till March 2023. However, it is expected that India will end 2022-23 with total exports of USD 760-770 billion, showing improvement from USD 676 billion in 2021-22.
Section: Food security
Context: The decision to extend the free food grains program by five years, as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is viewed as a medium-term policy with potential fiscal risks and implications for competitive populism, according to Nomura economists.
While this extension is not anticipated to significantly impact the fiscal calculations for the current financial year, the potential for additional populist measures leading up to the general elections in 2024 remains a concern.
Key points highlighted by Nomura economists in their research note include:
- The announcement cements the free foodgrains scheme as a medium-term policy, reflecting the challenges associated with rolling back populist policies, particularly in the context of upcoming elections. This move is seen as an attempt to align with public sentiment.
- While the immediate fiscal and inflationary effects of the extended 5 kilograms free foodgrain scheme appear manageable, the government’s food subsidy expenditure is likely to escalate over time due to increasing procurement costs.
- The foregone revenues from subsidized food sales to the poor, estimated to be 0.05% of GDP annually, contribute to the overall fiscal implications of the policy.
- Although the necessity of subsidized grains for low-income households is acknowledged, there are inherent risks associated with the competitive populism induced by the introduction of free schemes.
- The economists express concerns about the potential rise in revenue expenditure, particularly linked to growing rural employment guarantee spending, and the inclination to announce further populist measures, potentially impacting the fiscal deficit target of 5.9% of GDP.
- The current expenditure on food subsidy by the central government is reported to have been lower than the previous fiscal year, suggesting some control over spending, despite the extension of the free foodgrains scheme.
Overall, while the short-term impact is expected to be manageable, the economists emphasize the need for cautious fiscal management, especially considering the potential escalation of costs over time and the possibility of additional populist measures being introduced in the future.
About National Food Security Act (NFSA)
The National Food Security Act (NFSA) is a significant legislation enacted by the Indian government to ensure food and nutritional security for the population.
Notified On: 10th September, 2013.
Objective: The primary objective of the NFSA is to ensure access to an adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices, enabling people to live a life with dignity. It adopts a human life cycle approach to provide food and nutritional security.
Coverage: The NFSA extends its coverage to 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population, ensuring that they receive subsidised food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). Overall, it covers approximately 81.35 crore citizens.
Eligibility: The Priority Households are identified and covered under the TPDS based on the guidelines provided by the respective State governments. Additionally, households falling under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana are also eligible for coverage under the NFSA.
Provisions: The NFSA provides several crucial provisions, including the distribution of 5 kgs of food grains per person per month at affordable rates (Rs. 3/2/1 per Kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains). Furthermore, the Act ensures that existing AAY households receive 35 kgs of food grains per household per month. It also includes provisions for meal and maternity benefits for pregnant women and lactating mothers, meals for children up to 14 years of age, and a food security allowance to beneficiaries in cases of non-supply of entitled food grains or meals. Additionally, it emphasizes the establishment of grievance redressal mechanisms at both the district and state levels.
The NFSA serves as a critical instrument in addressing food security concerns and promoting the well-being of vulnerable sections of society, ensuring they have access to essential food and nutrition.
About Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY)
The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) has been a critical intervention by the Indian government to provide essential food security to vulnerable populations, especially during the challenging times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Introduction: The scheme was initially launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its scope has now been extended to distribute wheat and rice free of cost to approximately 80 crore people.
About the Scheme: PM-GKAY is recognized as one of the world’s largest food security schemes, with the primary aim of ensuring adequate food supplies for the underprivileged and those in need during the pandemic. It operates as a part of the relief package introduced in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Finance.
Features and Eligibility: The scheme encompasses the distribution of 5 kg of food grains and 1 kg of gram per month to eligible beneficiaries, including families falling below the poverty line, as identified under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana and Priority Household categories. The identification of eligible families is conducted by the respective state governments and union territory administrations.
Necessity and Concerns: While the PM-GKAY addresses the immediate need for food security, challenges persist, particularly in reaching certain vulnerable groups and effectively implementing the scheme. Migrant workers, in particular, face constraints in accessing affordable and nutritious food, especially without adequate cooking arrangements or fuel.
The scheme has faced several challenges and issues that need to be addressed:
- Inadequate updates in ration records since the 2011 Census have led to a significant portion of the population being excluded from the benefits of both the NFSA and PMGKAY, especially vulnerable groups such as migrants, sex workers, and transgender individuals.
- Although the scheme is designed to assist to the needy, certain flaws have limited its effectiveness. The 25 kg limit on the collection of free grains for a family of five is a reduction from the earlier provisions, and the repeated extensions of the scheme have raised concerns about political motivations.
- Steps have been taken by some states, such as Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and West Bengal, to universalize or expand the coverage of the scheme using state cards.
- Additionally, the Supreme Court has directed the central government to broaden the coverage of the NFSA.
Fiscal Impact of Free Food Grains under NFSA:
- Center’s food subsidy bill on NFSA was around ₹2 lakh crore annually.
- PMGKAY effectively doubled the sum for the past two years, but the termination will save the government a significant burden.
Impact of Decision on Food Grain Stocks:
- Relief for stressed food grain stocks as production and procurement levels faced challenges in 2022.
- Continuation of PMGKAY was unsustainable without increasing procurement levels.
The Food Corporation of India (FCI) is a statutory body established under the Food Corporation Act of 1964. It was set up with the primary objective of fulfilling various aspects of the Food Policy in India. The key responsibilities and functions of the FCI include:
- Effective price support operations to safeguard the interests of farmers.
- Distribution of food grains across the country through the Public Distribution System (PDS) to ensure food accessibility for the general population, especially those in need.
- Maintenance of a satisfactory level of operational and buffer stocks of food grains to ensure national food security and stabilize food prices in the market.
Under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India, the Food Corporation of India plays a vital role in ensuring food security and stability in the country. Since its establishment, the FCI has played a significant role in transforming India’s food security system, shifting the focus from crisis management to a more stable and sustainable approach.
Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS)
- Objective: Ensure food security, moderate open market prices, and enhance food grain supply during lean seasons.
- Initiative: FCI sells surplus food grains (wheat and rice) from the central pool through e-auctions to traders, bulk consumers, and retail chains.
- Revision: Quantity restrictions imposed on single bidders (3,000 MT to 10-100 MT) to encourage small and marginal buyers, curbing monopolies of bulk purchasers.
- Impact on States: Sale of rice and wheat from central pool under OMSS to state governments stopped, leading states to seek alternative procurement methods.
- States’ Reactions: Criticisms from states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, citing adverse effects on their welfare schemes.
- Centre’s Stance: Restrictions implemented to manage inflation and supply, with emphasis on existing distribution to 80 crore marginalized beneficiaries under NFSA.
Subject : Science and Tech
Section: Awareness in IT
- In July this year, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), at the request of the government, invited a comprehensive consultation on the need and possible mechanisms for regulation of ‘OTT services’, which became controversial.
- The principle of net neutrality states that internet users should be able to access all content on the internet without being discriminated by TSPs.
- This means that –
- All websites or applications should be treated equally by TSPs,
- All applications should be allowed to be accessed at the same internet speed, and
- All applications should be accessible for the same cost.
- Net neutrality argues that the internet should be accessible to everyone and requires all ISPs to provide the same level of data access and speed to all traffic.
- Traffic to one service or website cannot be blocked or degraded.
What will happen if there is no Net Neutrality?
- If there no net neutrality, ISPs will have the power (and inclination) to shape internet traffic so that they can derive extra benefit from it.
- For example, several ISPs believe that they should be allowed to charge companies for services like YouTube and Netflix because these services consume more bandwidth compared to a normal website.
- Basically, these ISPs want a share in the money that YouTube or Netflix make.
- Without net neutrality, the internet as we know it will not exist. Instead of free access, there could be package plans for consumers.
- For example, if you pay Rs 500, you will only be able to access websites based in India. To access international websites, you may have to pay a more.
- Or maybe there can be different connection speed for different type of content, depending on how much you are paying for the service and what add-on package you have bought.
- Instead of an open and free internet, without net neutrality, we are likely to get a web that has silos in it and to enter each silo, you will have to pay some “tax” to ISPs.
Regulation of Net Neutrality
- Until now, net neutrality has not directly been regulated in India by any law or policy framework. Earlier, in 2016, the TRAI had ruled in favour of net neutrality.
- However, despite lack of formal rules, ISPs in India mostly adhere to the principal of net neutrality.
- There have been some incidents where Indian ISPs have ignored net neutrality but these are few and far between.
- Internationally, countries like the USA, Japan, Brazil, Chile, Norway, etc. have some form of law, order or regulatory framework in place that affects net neutrality.
- The US Federal Communications Commission (telecom regulator in the USA) released new internet rules in March 2015, which mainly disallow blocking, throttling or slowing down, and paid prioritisation of certain applications over others.
- While the UK does not allow blocking or throttling of OTT services, it allows price discrimination.
About Over The Top (OTT) services:
- It refers to a media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet. OTT bypasses cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms—the types of companies that have traditionally acted as controllers or distributors of such content.
- Examples: content providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ Hotstar.
- For more than a decade now, telecom companies have seen revenue from traditional streams such as voice calls and SMS come under pressure, as competing OTT services are often free. At the same time, they have had to invest heavily in upgrading their infrastructure to handle increased data traffic, without necessarily seeing an equivalent rise in revenue.
- They also complain that OTT services are not subject to the same level of taxation and licensing fees, leading to an uneven playing field. On the flip side, the use of OTT services has led to a surge in data consumption, which is a growing revenue stream for telecom companies.
Flawed argument that affects net neutrality
- The OTT consultation has renewed the clamour from the telecom companies that OTT platforms/ content providers be asked to share in the costs of bandwidth. They argue that streaming platforms are free riders, benefiting from the infrastructure built and maintained by the telecom companies.
- However, this argument is fundamentally flawed and sets a dangerous precedent that undermines the principle of net neutrality. Telecom companies do not own the Internet; rather, they provide access to it.
- Consumers pay the telcos for access services by purchasing data plans. By offering services that consumers desire, OTT platforms generate demand for Internet access. They also pay for the content delivery networks (CDNs) to create pathways that substantially augment the capacity of the internet to deliver their content.
- Telecom companies capitalise on this demand (and the availability of OTT content) by providing connectivity to the Internet and charging subscribers for it.
- If they fail to cover costs, telecom companies are at liberty to increase their prices, which should go towards maintaining and upgrading their infrastructure. One of the requirements for the operation of a fair market is that the costs and benefits of a transaction are fully accounted for in the exchange price.
- Therefore, any attempt to seek cross subsidise instead of fully accounting for the costs could warrant scrutiny from the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
- In the marketplace for Internet access, the consumers are free to choose the provider that offers them the highest bandwidth, data volume, and reliability at an affordable price. These are distinct markets because services from one are not substitutable for services in the other.
- Therefore, it is logical to maintain a separation of costs between these two markets. The attempt of telcos to double dip by charging both consumers and content providers is not only avaricious but also undermines net neutrality.
- If OTT platforms were to acquiesce to the demands of the telcos, the incurred costs would trickle down to subscribers, either through increased subscription fees or degraded service quality for those platforms unwilling or unable to pay the toll. This outcome can only be detrimental to consumers who have come to rely on OTT services for entertainment, education, and professional pursuits.
Basis of TRAI regulation
- Net neutrality formed the basis of TRAI’s regulation on prohibition of discriminatory tariffs for data services brought out in 2016. The regulator’s action forced the withdrawal of Facebook’s Free Basics platform and some other offerings in India.
- In 2017, TRAI released its comprehensive recommendations, which have largely guided the adoption of this principle in India. These steps taken by TRAI were noted elsewhere in the world.
- The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and TRAI adopted a Joint Statement for an Open Internet in 2018. The two organisations agreed through this memorandum of understanding to cooperate in developing technological and policy initiatives for net neutrality. Many other countries have also adopted net neutrality, thereafter.
- It is imperative for all stakeholders, including policymakers, to recognise the long term ramifications of acquiescing to the shortsighted demands of telecom companies.
- Upholding the principles of net neutrality is not merely about preserving the ethos of an open Internet but is also intrinsic to fostering a conducive environment for innovation, competition, and consumer welfare, especially countries such as India where the Internet is going to be the carrier of all Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI).
Section: Food security
With wheat flour (atta) becoming costly around the festival season, the Union Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry on Monday released more stocks of the ‘Bharat’ brand atta through 100 mobile vans and the outlets of Kendriya Bhandar, National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India Ltd. (NCCF), and National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED).
About Bharat Atta, A Subsidized Wheat Flour Scheme:
- In order to maintain stability in food prices during the festive season, the Indian government has unveiled a subsidized packaged wheat flour initiative accessible to all consumers.
- Termed “Bharat Atta,” the scheme aims to release a quarter of a million tonnes of state-owned wheat to various cooperative outlets and federations.
- The government has chosen Kendriya Bhandar, a network of cooperative general stores, along with the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation and National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation, as the primary channels for distributing Bharat Atta.
- Bharat Atta is offered at a reduced price of ₹27.50 per kilogram, which is lower than the earlier rate of ₹29.50 at Kendriya Bhandar.
- To ensure accessibility, the subsidized flour will be available at Kendriya Bhandar, NAFED, NCCF, government cooperative outlets, and food vans operated by NAFED and NCCF.
- The government is facilitating this scheme by milling the wheat through firms selected through a tender process, thereby minimizing the milling cost, which is approximately ₹1.80 per kilogram for large wheat millers.
Why such initiative?
- Free cereals for five years: PM recently announced that cereals would be provided free of cost to 800 million beneficiaries entitled to subsidized food for the next five years.
- Food Price Controls: The government has implemented various measures such as banning wheat and rice exports, setting a floor price for onion exports, and reducing import duties on pulses to combat rising food prices.
- Election Context: These anti-inflation measures come as India faces key assembly elections in five states and a general election in the near future.
Issues in implementation
- Cereal Inflation: Despite a significant wheat harvest, India continues to grapple with high cereal inflation, which has persisted for over a year, reaching double digits.
- Record Foodgrain Production: The fourth and final round of estimates for the 2022-23 crop output indicates a record high in foodgrain production.However, wheat production slightly decreased from initial estimates.
- Positive Outlook: Despite minor fluctuations, wheat production remains higher than the previous year, reflecting a positive outlook for addressing food price concerns.
- The initiative of government’s subsidized wheat flour, Bharat Atta, exemplifies its dedication to ensuring that the joy of the festive season is not marred by soaring food prices.
- The ‘festival of lights’ should not be allowed to deteriorate into a celebration of noise. Fireworks are traditionally associated with joyful festivities worldwide, but many of them are harmful, often excessively loud, and emit harmful fumes when ignited.
Initiatives to combat Noise Pollution
- In 2018, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research introduced “green” fireworks that are less harmful and less noisy, and their usage has been mandated by various regulatory bodies.
- The Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules of 2000 specify that fireworks should not be ignited in “silence zones” designated by state governments and not after 10 p.m. Firecracker noise during the daytime (from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.) and in industrial areas should not exceed 75 dB(A) Leq.
- The noise limits in commercial and residential areas are 65 dB(A) Leq and 55 dB(A) Leq, respectively. In these limits, dB represents decibels, A is a weighting scale for human perception of loudness, and Leq indicates a time-averaged figure.
- The rules also permit individuals to file a complaint if the noise exceeds these limits by 10 dB(A) Leq during the daytime.
Impact of Noise Pollution:
- Since decibels are a logarithmic unit, a 10 dB increase implies a tenfold rise in acoustic pressure, often reaching a point where the sound becomes harmful.
- Research has established links between loud environments and various health issues such as sleep disorders, tinnitus, stress, anxiety, hearing loss, and cardiac problems.
- Noise levels exceeding 80 dB(A) in offices have been associated with hypertension, while noise levels above 50 dB(A) at night, when the body is unaccustomed to loud sounds, can elevate cortisol levels.
What are green crackers?
- Green Crackers are fireworks that are healthy to the environment and can lessen the air pollution that conventional firecrackers produce.
- The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) created these.
- These green crackers, designed by the National Environmental and Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a CSIR lab, contain flower pots, pencils, fireworks, maroons, bombs, and chakkar.
- Green crackers, also known as eco-friendly crackers, are made from alternative raw materials to have a smaller negative impact on the environment and to pose fewer health hazards.
- It has been stated that green crackers are environmentally friendly because they don’t contain aluminum, barium, potassium nitrate, or carbon.
Types of green crackers
(1) SWAS – Safe Water Releaser
- They will discharge water vapour into the atmosphere, which will dampen the discharged dust.
- It won’t contain sulphur or potassium nitrate.
- There will be a release of a diluent for gaseous emissions.
- There will be a 30% reduction in the amount of particle dust emitted.
(2) STAR – Safe Thermite Cracker
- Does not contain sulphur and potassium nitrate.
- Discharge of less particulate matter.
- Lowered noise level.
(3) SAFAL – Safe Minimal Aluminum
- Does not contain sulphur and potassium nitrate.
- Discharge of less particulate matter.
- Lowered noise level as compared to traditional ones.
- India’s noise problem is a significant public health crisis. To prevent fireworks from exacerbating the situation, governments should prohibit the production of non-compliant fireworks altogether, and cities should enhance public access to noise data and adopt noise reduction targets.
Subject : Polity
Some States ruled by political parties in opposition to the party in power at the Center have approached the Supreme Court (SC) accusing their Governors of using a nonexistent discretion to unreasonably delay the passing of crucial Bills into law. The Bills in limbo cover sectors such as public health, higher education, Lokayukta and cooperative societies.
Some accusations on the Office of Governor
- Tamil Nadu has accused its Governor of sitting on the Bills by neither assenting nor returning them.
- Kerala, in its separate petition, said that eight proposed laws passed by its Legislative Assembly were pending with the Governor, not for months, but years.
- Kerala has asked the Supreme Court to form a 7 judge Bench to review a 5 judge Bench judgement in the 1962 Purushothaman Nambudiri case which held the view that Article 200 did not provide “for a time limit within which the Governor should come to a decision on the Bill referred to him for his assent”. The State said that, at the time, the court did not consider the possibility of Governors holding back Bills for an indeﬁnite time.
- SC had to intervene in April for the Telangana Governor to clear Bills pending since 2022, compelling the advocate appearing for the State to submit that legislatures in Opposition Ruled States were at the mercy of the Governors, who had become a law unto themselves.
How is assent granted?
- Article 200 of the Constitution enables the Governor, when a Bill passed by both Houses of the Legislature, to either declare his assent to the Bill or withhold the assent if it is not a Money Bill, or reserve the law for the consideration of the President.
- Article 163 There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions except in so far as he is by or under the Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion.
- The top court in the Shamsher Singh case verdict has held that as a formal head of the State a “Governor exercises all his powers and functions conferred on him by or under the Constitution on the aid and advice of his Council of Ministers save in spheres where the Governor is required by or under the Constitution to exercise his functions in his discretion.” The assent or return of the Bill does not involve the discretion of individuals occupying the Governor’s post.
By when should Bills be returned?
- The ﬁrst provision of Article 200 says it should be “as soon as possible”. The Constitution is silent on what exactly this phrase means. Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, in his 2020 judgment in the Keisham Megha Chandra Singh case, said a ‘reasonable time’ would mean 3 months.
- The States have urged the court to interpret the phrase in the proviso and ﬁx a time limit by which Governors should assent or return a Bill. The 1988 Sarkaria Commission report on Centre-State relations had suggested consultation with the Governor while drafting the Bill and ﬁxing a deadline for its disposal.
Section: Places in news
Context: IT Madras opens offshore campus in Zanzibar, Tanzania
More about the news:
- The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-Madras) inaugurated its first-ever international campus in Zanzibar.
- This historic event was attended by Dr. Hussein Ali Mwinyi, President of Zanzibar, along with Tanzanian and Indian officials and academics.
- The Zanzibar campus is part of the Indian government’s efforts to showcase India’s education system on the global stage.
- It is located in the Bweleo district, near Zanzibar Town, and will offer programs in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels.
- The inaugural batch includes students from Zanzibar, mainland Tanzania, Nepal, and India, with a noteworthy 40% representation of women.
- The campus will also engage in academic collaborations, including study abroad programs, internships, and exchanges with the Chennai-based IIT-Madras campus.
- It marks a significant step toward internationalizing India’s educational reach.
Some facts about Zanzibar:
- Zanzibar is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania, and is a semi-autonomous province of Tanzania.
Some facts about Tanzania:
- Tanzania is a country in East Africa within the African Great Lakes region.
- It borders Uganda to the north; Kenya to the northeast; Comoro Islands and the Indian Ocean to the east; Mozambique and Malawi to the south; Zambia to the southwest; and Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.
- The capital of Tanzania is Dodoma
- Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, is in northeastern Tanzania.
- Three of Africa’s Great Lakes are partly within Tanzania. To the north and west lie Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, and Lake Tanganyika, the continent’s deepest lake, known for its unique species of fish. To the south lies Lake Malawi.
Section: Legislation in news
Context: Standing panel adopts reports on criminal laws
More about the news:
- The parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs has adopted its draft reports regarding three Bills aimed at replacing the Indian Penal Code, CrPC, and the Evidence Act, despite opposition members submitting multiple dissent notes.
- The report suggests various changes in the Bills.
- Some members, including former Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, requested more time to submit their dissent notes, which they have until Wednesday to do.
- It is expected that Chidambaram, along with other opposition members, will present detailed dissent notes.
- The usage of Hindi in the Bills has raised concerns among some opposition members, but the committee has maintained the Hindi names of the bills.
- Additionally, there are debates over the definition of community service, as it is included as an alternative form of punishment for certain offenses, and some members are against bringing terror, corruption, and organized crime under the new penal law.
Some facts about the revamp of Criminal law:
- The Centre has introduced three new Bills that propose a complete overhaul of the country’s criminal justice system.
- The three Bills are set to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860; the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- IPC is set to be replaced by the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023.
- The CrPC will be replaced by the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023.
- The Indian Evidence Act will be replaced by the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023
What were the old Criminal law in India:
- Indian Penal Code, 1860: Defines criminal offenses and their punishments.
- Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: Regulates the procedural aspects of criminal cases.
- Indian Evidence Act, 1872: Governs the rules for the admissibility of evidence in court.
Parliament Standing Committee
- Is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker / Chairman
- Works under the direction of the Speaker / Chairman
- Presents its report to the House or to the Speaker / Chairman
- Has a secretariat provided by the Lok Sabha / Rajya Sabha
- The introduction of 17 department-related standing committees (DRSCs) on March 31, 1993 was a significant innovation that increased parliamentary scrutiny and gave MPs a larger role in examining legislation and important decisions of the day.
- There are 24 DRSCs — 16 from Lok Sabha and 8 from Rajya Sabha. Each committee has 21 MPs from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha.
- The role: Given the volume of legislative business and the time constraints it is not possible for MPs to discuss and scrutinise all bills in the House.
- Parliamentary committees, either formed for a specific bill (select committee) or permanent (standing committees that are reconstituted annually) allow for a scrutiny with the possibility of tapping subject experts from outside and other stakeholders in an environment where MPs are not bound by party positions or whips.
Section: National bodies
Context: Adhir Ranjan Choudhry the leader of opposition writes to the President on appointment of new CIC Heeralal Samariya
More about the news:
- The appointment of Heeralal Samariya as Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) has sparked a political controversy in India.
- Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, a member of the selection committee, expressed his dismay, alleging that he was not consulted or informed about the selection.
- The Right to Information Act mandates that the CIC and Information Commissioners are appointed by the President upon the committee’s recommendation, which includes the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, and a nominated Union Minister.
- Chowdhury had requested a rescheduled meeting due to prior commitments but was not informed, leading to Samariya’s appointment.
- This has raised concerns about transparency and democratic norms in the appointment process, further deepening the trust deficit between the opposition and the government.
What are Central Information Commission (CIC):
- CIC is a statutory body constituted under section 12 of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
- CIC consists of a Chief Information Commissioner and not more than ten Information Commissioners.
- They are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a committee consisting of the Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister.
- The members of CIC shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media, or administration and governance.
- Members shall not be a Member of Parliament, or Member of the Legislature of any State or Union Territory as the case may be, or hold any other office of profit or connected with any political party or carry on any business or pursue any profession.
- Tenure and Salary
- The members shall hold office for such term as prescribed by the Central Government or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
- They are not eligible for reappointment.
- The salary, allowances and other service conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner shall be such as prescribed by the Central Government.
- President can remove the Chief Information Commissioner or any Information Commissioner from the office under the following circumstances:
- If he is adjudged an insolvent; or
- Convicted of an offence which (in the opinion of the President) involves a moral turpitude; or
- Engages during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his office; or
- He is (in the opinion of the President) unfit to continue in office due to infirmity of mind or body; or
- Acquired such financial or other interest as is likely to affect prejudicially his official functions.
- The President can also remove the Chief Information Commissioner or any Information Commissioner on the ground of proven misbehavior or incapacity.
- The President has to refer the matter to the Supreme Court for an enquiry.
- If the Supreme Court, after the enquiry, upholds the cause of removal and advises so, then the President can remove him.
- President can remove the Chief Information Commissioner or any Information Commissioner from the office under the following circumstances:
- Power and Function:
- Complaint Inquiry: CIC and SIC are obligated to investigate complaints received from any person regarding information requested under the RTI Act, 2005, as per Section 18.
- Adjudication in Second Appeals: They have the authority to adjudicate on second appeals related to the disclosure of information, as outlined in Section 19.
- Penalty Imposition: CIC and SIC can impose penalties when they believe that the Public Information Officer, at the central or state level, has unjustifiably rejected or refused to entertain an application without reasonable cause, in accordance with Section 20.
- Access to Public Records: During their investigations, CIC and SIC have the authority to request any records within the control of a public authority.
- Suo-Moto Powers: They can initiate inquiries into matters with reasonable grounds and possess civil court-like powers, including summoning individuals and requesting documents.
- Enforcement of Decisions: CIC and SIC have the power to ensure that public authorities comply with their decisions.
- Annual Reporting: CIC submits an annual report to the Central Government, and the central government presents it before the Parliament.
What is the Right to Information Act(RTI Act):
- The Right to Information (RTI) is an act of the Parliament of India enacted on 15 June 2005 which sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information.
- It replaced the former Freedom of Information Act, 2002.
What is the objective of the Right to Information Act :
- To empower the citizens
- To promote transparency and accountability
- To contain corruption
- To enhance people’s participation in democratic process
What are some Key provisions of RTI:
- Section 1(2) : The act extends to the whole of India.
- Section- 2 (f): This section is related to Information which means any material in any form, including Records, Documents, Memos, e-mails, Opinions, Advices, Press releases, Circulars, Orders, Logbooks, Contracts, Reports, Papers, Samples, Models,
- Section- 2(j) :The Right to Information means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority.
- Section 4 of the RTI Act : Requires suo motu disclosure of information by each public authority.
- Section 8 (1):- It mentions exemptions against furnishing information under RTI Act.
- Section 8 (2):-It provides for disclosure of information exempted under Official Secrets Act, 1923 if larger public interest is served.
- Section 13 of the Act:-It sets the term of the central Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners including salaries, allowances and other terms of service.
- Section 22 of the RTI Act:-It states that the provisions of the act will have effect notwithstanding anything that is inconsistent with the OSA.
What is the functioning of Right to Information Act:
- A three-tier structure for enforcing the right to information has been set up under the RTI Act 2005.
- Public Information Officers: The first request for information goes to the Assistant Public Information Officer and Public Information Officer, designated by the Public Authorities.These Officers are required to provide information to an RTI applicant within 30 days of the request.
- Appellate Authority: It caters to the appeals against decisions of the Public Information Officer.
- State Information Commission or the Central Information Commission : Their major function is to listen to appeals against the order of the Appellate Authority.
What was RTI Amendment Act,2019:
- The RTI Amendment Act,2019 amended Sections 13, 16, and 27 of the RTI Act.
Subject : IR
Context: The Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) initiative, announced by the Quad grouping,
What is Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) initiative:
- The Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) initiative was announced by the Quad grouping at the 2022 Quad Leaders’ Summit in Tokyo.
- It was announced to track “dark shipping” and build a “faster, wider, and more accurate maritime picture of near-real-time activities in partners’ waters”, integrating three critical regions in the Indo-Pacific i.e the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and the IOR.
- IPMDA aims to promote a free, open, inclusive, and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.
- It aims to enhance security and stability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
- It utilizes advanced technology, like the collection of radio frequency data from commercial satellites, to deliver near real-time information to partners in Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean region, and the Pacific regarding activities within their maritime areas.
What is the Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC)
- The GMC serves as an outreach initiative by the Indian Navy, creating a multinational platform for collaboration between maritime security practitioners and academia to generate practical maritime insights.
- Previously, this biennial event was conducted in 2017, 2019, and 2021.
- The 4th edition of the GMC was held from October 29 to 31 under the auspices of the Indian Navy and in partnership with the Naval War College in Goa.
- During GMC-23, Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of the Naval Staff, hosted chiefs of navies, heads of maritime forces, and senior representatives from 12 Indian Ocean littoral countries. These countries include Bangladesh, Comoros, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
- The theme for the 2023 GMC was “Maritime Security in the Indian Ocean Region: Converting Common Maritime Priorities into Collaborative Mitigating Frameworks.”
- In the latest Goa Maritime Conclave edition, all Members unanimously adopted the ‘Common Maritime Priorities (CMPs),‘ indicating a shared approach to finding regional solutions for regional challenges. The current edition aims to further develop these CMPs into Collaborative Mitigating Frameworks.
What is Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR):
- In December 2018, India inaugurated the Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) at the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram.
- This center was established to facilitate regional cooperation on various maritime security issues, including concerns related to maritime terrorism, illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing , piracy, armed robbery on the high seas, as well as human and contraband trafficking.
- The primary objective of IFC-IOR is to actively engage with partner nations and various multinational maritime organizations.
- Its aim is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the maritime domain while sharing valuable information about vessels of interest. This “white shipping” information entails the exchange of advanced data regarding the identity and movements of commercial, non-military merchant vessels. In this context, “white” represents the color code used for commercial ships, while “grey” is reserved for military vessels, and illegal ships are categorized differently.
- To enable better correlation, compressed information cycles and timely inputs, the Centre also hosts International Liaison Officers (ILOs) from partner nations. The Centre hosts ILOs from 12 partner nations viz., Australia, France, Italy, Japan, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Singapore, United Kingdom and United States of America.
- The Centre monitors the Indian Ocean and adjoining seas to understand each region and generates various periodic reports viz., Weekly Maritime Security Updates (WMSU), Monthly Maritime Security Updates (MMSU), Half Yearly Overviews and Annual Reports.
Subject : Science and Tech
Section: Awareness in IT
- A video that supposedly shows actress Rashmika Mandanna entering an elevator has ignited a firestorm of controversy on the internet. What initially appears as genuine is, in fact, a ‘deepfake’ of the actress.
- Deepfake technology is a method for manipulating videos, images, audio utilizing powerful computers and deep learning.
- It is used to generate fake news and commit financial fraud among other wrongdoings.
- It overlays a digital composite over an already-existing video, picture, or audio; cybercriminals use Artificial Intelligence technology.
- These include pictures, audio or videos that are constructed using deep learning technology, a branch of machine learning where massive amounts of data are fed into a system to create fake content that looks real.
Origin of the Word:
- The term deepfake originated in 2017 when an anonymous Reddit user called himself “Deepfakes.”
- This user manipulated Google’s open-source, deep-learning technology to create and post pornographic videos.
- Deepfake technology is now being used for nefarious purposes like scams and hoaxes, celebrity pornography, election manipulation, social engineering, automated disinformation attacks, identity theft, financial fraud etc.
- Deepfake technology has been used to impersonate notable personalities like former U.S. President Barack Obama and Donald Trump, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, etc.
How to identify a deepfake content?
- Unnatural eye movements:
- Deepfake videos often exhibit unnatural eye movements or gaze patterns. In genuine videos, eye movements are typically smooth and coordinated with the person’s speech and actions.
- Mismatch in colour and lighting
- Deepfake creators may have difficulty replicating accurate colour tones and lighting conditions.
- Compare and contrast audio quality:
- Deepfake videos often use AI-generated audio that may have subtle imperfections.
- Strange body shape and movements:
- Deepfakes can sometimes result in unnatural body shapes or movements. For example, limbs may appear too long or short, or the body may move in an unusual or distorted manner.
- Artificial facial movements:
- Deepfake software may not always accurately replicate genuine facial expressions.
- Unnatural Positioning of Facial Features
- Deepfakes may occasionally exhibit distortions or misalignments in these features, which can be a sign of manipulation.
- Awkward posture and physique:
- Deepfakes may struggle to maintain a natural posture or physique.
- Reverse image search:
- One can also take a screenshot of the video and run a reverse image search to check the source and the original video. To do this, go to https://images.google.com/ and click on the camera icon that says ‘Search by image’. One can then upload the screenshot and Google will show you if visuals associated with it are taken from previous videos.
What are other Countries doing to Combat Deepfakes?
- European Union:
- The European Union has an updated Code of Practice to stop the spread of disinformation through deepfakes.
- The revised Code requires tech companies including Google, Meta, and X (formerly Twitter) to take measures to counter deepfakes and fake accounts on their platforms.
- They have six months to implement their measures once they have signed up to the Code.
- If found non-compliant, these companies can face fines of as much as 6% of their annual global turnover, according to the updated Code.
- Introduced in 2018, the Code of Practice on Disinformation brought together for the first time worldwide industry players to commit to counter disinformation.
- United States:
- The U.S. introduced the bipartisan Deepfake Task Force Act to assist the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in countering deepfake technology.
- The measure directs the DHS to conduct an annual study of deepfakes assess the technology used, track its uses by foreign and domestic entities, and come up with available countermeasures to tackle the same.
- California and Texas have passed laws that criminalize the publishing and distributing of deepfake videos that intend to influence the outcome of an election. The law in Virginia imposes criminal penalties on the distribution of nonconsensual deepfake pornography.
- In India, however, there are no legal rules against using deepfake technology.
- However, specific laws can be addressed for misusing the tech, which include Copyright Violation, Defamation and cyber felonies.
Source of this article: Indian Express
Subject : Environment
- With the Nation Capital Region’s Air Quality Index (AQI) deteriorating to the ‘severe’ category, the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) invoked measures under Stage 4 of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) with immediate effect.
Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP):
- GRAP is a set of emergency measures that kick in to prevent further deterioration of air quality once it reaches a certain threshold in the Delhi-NCR region.
- Approved by the Supreme Court in 2016 (M. C. Mehta vs. UOI) and notified in 2017.
- From 2021 onwards, the GRAP is being implemented by the CAQM.
- Till 2020, the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) used to order States to implement GRAP measures.
- CAQM relies on air quality and meteorological forecasts by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
- GRAP is incremental in nature and thus, when the air quality dips from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor,’ measures listed under both sections have to be followed.
- Stage I (Poor Air Quality – AQI 201-300): Enforce NGT / Hon’ble SC’s order on over-aged diesel/petrol vehicles.
- Stage II (Very Poor- AQI 301-400): Targeted actions to combat air pollution at identified hotspots in the region. Regulated operations of DG (Diesel Generators) have been set across all sectors in the NCR.
- Stage III (‘Severe’- AQI 401-450): Impose strict restrictions on BS III petrol and BS IV diesel four-wheelers in certain areas and may suspend physical classes in schools for primary grade children up to Class 5.
- Stage IV (Severe Plus- AQI greater than 450): When the AQI exceeds 450, four-wheelers registered outside Delhi, except for electric vehicles, CNG vehicles, and BS-VI diesel vehicles and vehicles carrying essential commodities, will not be allowed to enter the city.
- The BS or Bharat Stage emission standards are instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from motor vehicles from internal combustion engine equipment. The BS-VI fuel was estimated to bring around an 80% reduction of sulphur, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm.
About the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM):
- First formed by an ordinance in October 2020.
- It is a statutory authority.
- It will supersede bodies such as the central and state pollution control boards of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan.
- The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) was dissolved and replaced by the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in 2020.
- Chairperson: To be chaired by a government official of the rank of Secretary or Chief Secretary.
- The chairperson will hold the post for three years or until s/he attains the age of 70 years.
- It will have members from several Ministries as well as representatives from the stakeholder States.
- It will have experts from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Civil Society.
Powers and functions:
- It will have the power to issue directions to these state governments on issues pertaining to air pollution.
- It will entertain complaints as it deems necessary for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the air in the NCR and adjoining areas.
- It will also lay down parameters for the control of air pollution.
- It will also be in charge of identifying violators, monitoring factories and industries and any other polluting unit in the region, and will have the power to shut down such units.
- It will also have the power to overrule directives issued by the state governments in the region, that may be in violation of pollution norms.
Source of this article: Indian Express