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03 March 2024 - Daily Current Affairs

Maharashtra’s latest Maratha quota law and its challenges

Summary of Maharashtra's New Maratha Reservation Bill:

Key Points:

  • The Maharashtra Assembly passed a bill granting 10% reservation in education and government jobs to the Maratha community.

  • This marks the third attempt by the state to establish a Maratha quota in the past decade.

  • The previous two attempts, in 2014 and 2018, were struck down by the courts for exceeding the 50% reservation cap set by the Supreme Court.

Concerns:

  • Critics argue that Marathas, as a dominant forward class, do not qualify for reservations as they are not socially and educationally backward.

  • The new bill is similar to previous attempts and may face the same legal challenges.

Arguments for the Bill:

  • Proponents claim the Maratha community faces economic hardship and needs government support.

  • They argue that the 50% cap should be reconsidered in exceptional circumstances.

Outlook:

  • Legal experts believe the new bill is unlikely to be upheld by the courts based on previous rulings.

Additional Information:

  • The bill does not affect the existing 52% reservation for other communities in Maharashtra, bringing the total reservation to 72% with the inclusion of EWS quota.

  • The Marathas can potentially be eligible for reservations under two separate categories: the new 10% quota and the existing EWS quota if they meet the income criteria.

Overall, the new Maratha reservation bill faces significant legal hurdles and its success in court remains uncertain.


The Italian court ruling against returning sea migrants to Libya

An Italian court ruled that returning rescued migrants to Libya is illegal because it violates their human rights. The court's decision contradicts the policies of Italy and some other European countries that cooperate with Libya's coast guard to prevent migrants from reaching Europe.

Key points:

  • Italy's court ruling: Returning migrants to Libya is illegal as it violates their right to not be returned to a place where they face persecution (non-refoulement).

  • International law: Requires shipmasters to assist people in distress at sea and coastal states to conduct search and rescue operations.

  • The situation in Libya: Migrants face human rights abuses, including torture and detention in unsafe conditions, in Libyan detention centers.

  • Controversial practices: Italy and the EU have been criticized for cooperating with Libya's coast guard, which is accused of human rights violations, to stop migrants from reaching Europe.


Non-Refoulement: Protecting Refugees from Harm

Non-refoulement is a fundamental principle of international law that **prohibits the return of individuals to a country where they face a serious threat to their life or freedom based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. This principle is enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, also known as the Refugee Convention.


The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 

It is an international maritime treaty established to promote safety and prevent pollution from ships. It is one of the most important conventions governing maritime safety and is administered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).


Key aspects of SOLAS:

  • Sets minimum safety standards: SOLAS outlines minimum safety standards for the construction, equipment, and operation of ships. These standards cover various aspects, including:

  • Life-saving appliances and equipment (e.g., lifeboats, liferafts, life jackets): Specifies types, numbers, and maintenance requirements for various life-saving equipment based on the size and type of ship.

  • Fire protection, fire detection, and fire fighting: Establishes regulations for fire prevention measures, fire detection systems, and firefighting equipment.

  • Navigation safety: Defines requirements for navigational equipment, bridge procedures, and watchkeeping practices.

  • Carriage of dangerous goods: Regulates the safe transport of dangerous goods like explosives and flammable liquids.

  • Radiocommunications: Defines requirements for communication equipment to ensure timely communication during emergencies.

  • Search and rescue: Establishes guidelines for search and rescue operations at sea.

  • Regular updates: SOLAS is a living document and is regularly updated to reflect technological advancements and address new maritime safety concerns. These updates are adopted through amendments to the Convention, which require ratification by a certain number of member states to come into effect.

  • Non-refoulement and SOLAS: While not directly addressing non-refoulement, SOLAS plays a role in its application by:

  • Requiring shipmasters to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost, regardless of their nationality or legal status. This aligns with the spirit of non-refoulement by encouraging the rescue of individuals at sea.

  • Emphasizing the importance of search and rescue operations, which can help prevent situations where individuals are returned to countries where they face a risk of persecution.

Overall, the SOLAS Convention plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of life at sea and contributes to the protection of individuals in distress. It remains an evolving document continuously adapting to address new challenges and ensuring safe navigation for all.



Cross-voting in Rajya Sabha Elections Explained

Recent events: Cross-voting by MLAs in Rajya Sabha elections in several states has raised concerns about the fairness and transparency of the process.

How are Rajya Sabha elections conducted?

  • Indirectly elected by MLAs of each state. (Article 80)

  • The polls for Rajya Sabha will be required only if the number of candidates exceed the number of vacancies.

  • Traditionally unopposed, but cross-voting has become more common since 1998.

  • Open ballot system introduced in 2003 (amendment in RPA,1951 section 59) to discourage cross-voting. MLAs must show their ballot paper to their party agent.

What is the Tenth Schedule?

  • Introduced in 1985 to prevent defection by MPs and MLAs.

  • Disqualification for voting against party instructions or voluntarily giving up party membership.

  • Does not apply to Rajya Sabha elections: Supreme Court rulings clarified by EC this in 2017.

  • Furthermore, political parties cannot issue any ‘whip’ to its members for such elections.

Court rulings:

  • Kuldip Nayar case (2006): Upheld open ballot system, but no disqualification for voting against party in Rajya Sabha elections.

  • Ravi Naik case (1994): Defined "voluntarily giving up membership" for disqualification purposes.

Recent disqualification:

  • Six Congress MLAs in Himachal Pradesh disqualified for defying party whip and being absent during budget passage.

The way forward:

  • Challenges: Cross-voting undermines the open ballot system's intended purpose.

  • Possible solutions: Supreme Court may:

  • Initiate a case (suo moto PIL) to review its own rulings.

  • Revisit the definition of "voluntarily giving up membership" to include voting against the party in Rajya Sabha elections.

  • This could deter cross-voting in the future.




Hope for Kashmir's critically endangered hangul deer

Good news:

  • Kashmir's hangul deer, facing dwindling numbers for decades, had a healthy rutting season, indicating a possible population increase.

  • Experts predict the population to cross 300 this spring, the highest in 30 years.

  • This is attributed to improved habitat management and reduced disturbances in the Dachigam National Park.

Challenges remain:

  • Predator presence (leopards, black bears) poses a threat.

  • Drying water sources due to climate change may force hangul into vulnerable areas.

  • Skewed male-female ratio (19 males per 100 females) needs addressing.

Conservation efforts:

  • Wildlife department identified 10 hangul sites for protection.

  • Captive breeding program using modern techniques is underway.

  • Radio-collaring helps track hangul movement and informs conservation plans.

Overall, the report paints a cautiously optimistic picture for hangul deer conservation in Kashmir, but highlights the need for continued efforts to address existing challenges.


Union Home Minister inaugurates new organization for urban cooperative banks (UCBs)

Key points:

  • New organization: Amit Shah, Union Home and Cooperation Minister, inaugurated the National Urban Cooperative Finance and Development Corporation Limited (NUCFDC) on March 2nd.

  • Purpose: NUCFDC aims to self-regulate and support the development of UCBs in India.

  • Minister's message:

  • UCBs need to upgrade and comply with RBI regulations to stay competitive.

  • NUCFDC will help small banks meet Banking Regulation Act requirements.

  • Goal is to open UCBs in every city.

  • Current state of UCBs:

  • 11,000 branches, 1,500 banks, ₹5 lakh crore deposits, and ₹3.50 lakh crore loans.

  • Net non-performing assets (NPAs) reduced to 2.10%, but further improvement needed.

Additional Details

NUCFDC launched:

  • The National Urban Cooperative Finance and Development Corporation Limited (NUCFDC) has been established to support UCBs in India.

  • It will act as an umbrella organization, self-regulatory organization (SRO), and Non-Banking Finance Company (NBFC).

Goals:

  • Address challenges faced by UCBs, including:

  • Technology constraints

  • Limited range of services

  • Facilitate communication between UCBs and regulators

  • Provide specialized services to cooperative banks

Plans:

  • Raise capital to:

  • Support UCBs

  • Develop a shared technology platform for reduced costs and improved services

  • Offer services like:

  • Liquidity and capital support

  • Shared technology platform

  • Fund management and consultancy.


India Aims for One-Third of Global Milk Production by 2030

Key points:

  • National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) aims to increase India's share of global milk production to 30% (one-third) by 2030.

  • Focus areas: Breeding, nutrition, and animal health to improve productivity.

  • India currently holds 24% of global milk production but productivity lags behind developed nations.

  • NDDB and government working together to maintain current 6% annual growth rate, exceeding global average of 2%.

  • In Assam, the NDDB has formed a joint venture company with the state government to work for holistic development of the dairy sector.

  • Plans to increase milk procurement and expand farmer participation in cooperatives.

  • West Assam Milk Producers Cooperative Society (WAMUL's) production capacity being expanded with a new plant and focus on renewable energy use.

Overall, the NDDB is leading efforts to significantly increase India's role in the global milk market through improved animal care and collaboration with the government and private sector.


India Establishes Center to Strengthen Local Governance Auditing

Key Points:

  • The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India announced the establishment of the International Centre for Audit of Local Governance (iCAL) in Rajkot, Gujarat.

  • Purpose: Enhance auditing practices and address challenges in local government financial management.

  • Challenges identified:

  • Complex operations and diverse functionalities

  • Budgetary limitations and lack of trained personnel

  • Limited data access and integrity

  • Weak internal controls and compliance issues

  • Complexities in inter-entity transactions

  • Solutions proposed:

  • Capacity building for auditors and local government officials

  • Improved communication and collaboration

  • Specialized expertise and rigorous audit methodologies

  • Expected outcome: Effective utilization of public resources and improved local governance accountability.

Overall, iCAL aims to equip auditors and local governments with the necessary knowledge and tools to strengthen financial management and transparency at the local level.



AI in Action: Using AI to Address Water Scarcity in India

The article explores the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in tackling India's water scarcity challenges.

1. Public perception of AI: The article acknowledges diverse perspectives on AI, highlighting both its problem-solving potential (e.g., healthcare, weather prediction) and concerns about job displacement and privacy.

2. Resource limitations and water scarcity: India's development is hampered by resource limitations, particularly water scarcity, with floods in some regions and droughts in others.

3. River linking project and uncertainties: The government explores interlinking rivers to address water scarcity, but uncertainties surrounding environmental impact have stalled progress.

4. AI for optimized water management: Researchers from IIT-ISM and NITs used AI to model the proposed Pennar-Palar-Cauvery link canal, which aims to divert water to water-deficient regions.

5. Multi-objective modeling: The AI model considers multiple objectives, like maximizing agricultural returns while minimizing water usage and waste.

6. Data-driven approach: The model utilizes historical data on water levels, crop patterns, and agricultural economics.

7. AI's potential impact: The study suggests that strategic adjustments to crop selection can optimize water usage and improve outcomes.

8. Need for more data: The article emphasizes the need for more detailed data to enhance the accuracy of AI predictions for water management.

Overall, the article presents a promising application of AI in addressing a critical national challenge, highlighting the potential for AI to contribute to sustainable development in India.


From Viruses to Obelisks: Pushing the boundaries of life

The article explores the discovery of obelisks, a new life form challenging the boundaries between living and non-living.

1. Viruses and viroids:

  • For decades, viruses were the simplest life forms, known for their dependence on hosts and small genomes.

  • Viroids, discovered in 1971, are simpler than viruses, lacking protein coats and containing just RNA.

2. Introducing obelisks:

  • Scientists at Stanford University identified a new form of life called "obelisks" while analyzing gut bacteria RNA.

  • Obelisks are even simpler than viroids, with unique characteristics:

  • Circular RNA genomes (like viroids) but much larger (around 1000 base pairs).

  • Code for two unknown proteins not resembling any existing life forms.

  • Found in human gut and oral bacteria globally.

3. Unveiling obelisks through Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS):

  • NGS technology allows researchers to piece together fragmented genetic information from various organisms.

  • The researchers used NGS to specifically search for circular RNA sequences within bacterial RNA data.

  • This method identified obelisks in numerous gut and oral bacteria samples.

4. Open questions and future research:

  • The study linked one obelisk to the bacterium Streptococcus sanguinis.

  • Many questions remain unanswered:

  • Obelisk replication and transmission mechanisms.

  • Potential pathogenic effects on bacteria.

  • Evolutionary origins and role in human health.

Overall, the discovery of obelisks highlights the ongoing exploration of the boundaries of life and the potential for further remarkable discoveries in the future.


Gaganyaan: India's First Crewed Space Mission


What is Gaganyaan?

ISRO mission to send Indian astronauts to low-earth orbit.

  • Demonstrate human spaceflight technologies.

  • First step towards ambitious future goals like an Indian space station and lunar landing.

Components of Gaganyaan:

  • Launch Vehicle Mark-3 (LVM-3): Three-stage rocket for launch.

  • Orbital Module: Contains crew module and service module.

  • Crew Module: Houses astronauts, life support systems, and escape system.

  • Crew: Four IAF pilots shortlisted for astronaut training.

  • Vyommitra: Gynoid robot for monitoring capsule conditions and assisting crew.

Putting the Mission Together:

  • Building on existing technologies and rigorously testing them for human spaceflight.

  • Conducted precursor missions like SRE and CARE to test capsule re-entry.

  • Developed indigenous technologies like the CE-20 engine and ECLSS.

What will Gaganyaan Achieve?

  • Establish India's self-sufficiency in human spaceflight.

  • Reduce reliance on foreign launch services.

  • Place India among nations participating in space exploration.

Context:

  • Gaganyaan is part of a larger push for a more commercial and open Indian space sector.

  • New space policies and organizations like NSIL and IN-SPACe aim to boost private participation.

The mission signifies India's ambition to be a major player in the new space race.

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