Current Affairs December 19, 2023: Aditya L-1 Mission, Delimitation, India’s Arctic Expedition, State visit of Sultan of Oman to India, Telecom Bill 2023, Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme, District Mineral Foundations (DMFs), Oil Spill

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Table of contents

{GS2 – IR – Arctic} India’s Arctic Expedition

  • Context (IE): The Ministry of Earth Sciences launched India’s 1st winter scientific expedition to Arctic.

Why is India undertaking winter expeditions to the Arctic?

  • It would cater to new scientific projects in atmospheric and space sciences.
  • It will address the knowledge gap and data deficiency during winter polar nights, especially in atmospheric and biological sciences and space physics.
  • It makes India among select nations with extended in-time operations in the Arctic.

What makes the Arctic challenging for scientific explorations?

  • Limited access, harsh climate, several months of darkness.
  • Presence of dangerous wildlife like polar bears.
  • Limited space for independent studies.
  • Geopolitical complications, such as the current war between Ukraine and Russia.

Compared to the number of expeditions to Antarctica, why has India undertaken fewer and only summer-time expeditions to the Arctic?

  • Antarctica is a no-man’s land governed by an independent treaty called the Antarctic Treaty. Thus, it is open for all countries to set up stations and facilities to undertake scientific studies.
  • The Arctic has limited space for independent studies as the region belongs to various Arctic countries with national jurisdictions and competing interests.
  • In the absence of facilities for wintering observations and sampling, India has restricted its activities to mostly spring-summer-autumn time till date.

India’s Arctic Policy

  • Launched by the Ministry of Earth Science in 2022.
  • 6 pillars of India’s Arctic Policy:
    1. Science and Research,
    2. Climate and Environmental Protection,
    3. Economic and Human development,
    4. Transportation and Connectivity,
    5. Governance and International Cooperation,
    6. National Capacity Building.
  • India’s interests in the Arctic region are scientific, environmental, commercial as well as strategic.
  • Nodal agency for the Indian Arctic & Antarctic Programmes: National Centre for Policy and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Ministry of Earth Sciences.

India and the Arctic

Arctic Region

  • It is the northernmost region of the Earth, spreading around the North Pole.
  • It consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States (Alaska).
  • It is the smallest and shallowest ocean of the five principal oceans on the Earth.
  • It is partly covered by sea ice (frozen seawater that floats on the ocean surface) throughout the year, and almost completely during the winter months.
  • The Arctic Ocean’s surface temperature and salinity vary seasonally depending on the freezing and thawing of the ice cover.
  • Its salinity is the lowest, on average, of the 5 major oceans due to low evaporation, heavy freshwater influx from rivers and streams, and limited connection and outflow to surrounding oceanic waters.
  • The Ocean is home to the longest continental shelf in the world.
  • Though considered a “Global Common” it does not have an international regime to identify it as such. Being an Ocean, it is governed by the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  • Global Common refers to resource domains or areas that lie outside the political reach of any one Nation State i.e. Every nation has equal access to it.

{GS2 – IR – India-Oman} State visit of Sultan of Oman to India

  • Context (PIB): The Head of State of the Sultanate of Oman, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, for the first time in history, was on a state visit to India.

Keynotes from the Visit

  • The India-Oman Vision Document was signed reflecting the convergence of India’s Amritkaal vision and Oman’s “Vision 2040”.
  • Both countries expressed cooperation in digital connectivity, cyber security, financial crimes, medical tourism and maritime security.
  • The third tranche of the Oman-India Investment Fund was announced, a 50:50 collaboration between the State Bank of India and Oman Investment Authority.
  • An Oman Desk in Invest India and an India Desk in Invest Oman would be created.
  • The establishment of a Hindi chair of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations in Oman was announced.
  • The Ministry of Culture announced recreating the stitched ship’s journey from Mandvi, Gujarat, to Muscat in the 2025-26 voyage.
  • The possibility of leveraging India’s UPI for a corresponding Omani platform, along with discussions on trade in the Rupee was considered.
  • Progress on negotiations on the India-Oman Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was appraised.

India-Oman relations: Convergences

  • Historical Ties: Links between the Makran coast of Oman and Meluha of Indus Civilisation establish age-old people-to-people contact.
  • Geographical Proximity: Oman is the closest neighbour to India in the Arabian Gulf region.
  • Strategic Relations: Diplomatic relations were established in 1955 and upgraded to a strategic partnership in 2008.
  • Trade and Investment: Bilateral trade between both countries increased to USD 12.39 billion in 2022-2023 from USD 5.4 billion in 2020-2021.
  • Defence Ties: Currently, Oman is the only country in West Asia with which all three services of the Indian Armed Forces conduct regular bilateral exercises.
    • Joint military drill Al-Najah and naval exercises named Eastern Bridge and Naseem-al-Bahr are conducted between India and Oman.
  • Maritime Security: Operation Sankalp during the Persian Gulf crisis in June 2019 to ensure the safe passage of Indian-flagged ships and MoU on Duqm Port signifies maritime cooperation.
  • International groupings: The Sultanate of Oman is an important interlocutor at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Arab League, and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) for India.

Duqm PortDuqm Port

  • Duqm port is located in southern Oman on the Arabian Sea and close to the Strait of Hormuz.
  • Through the Gulf of Aden, it provides easy access into the Red Sea.

Challenges in India-Oman Relations

  • Slow Progress of the Middle East to India Deepwater Pipeline (MEIDP) limits the cooperation potential.
  • China factor: With Oman’s biggest oil importer and Belt and Road initiative China poses a challenge.
  • Global diplomatic challenges: Allegations of Oman backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen may lead to diplomatic challenges for the India-Oman relations.
  • Trade skewed towards oil import: With India targeting a reduction in fossil fuel consumption, oil imports and subsequent trade relations may hamper.

Way Forward

  • The proposed India-Middle-East-Europe Connectivity Corridor (IMEEC) infrastructure project would open new avenues for cooperation between the two countries. 

{GS2 – IR – Multilateral} Reforming Multilateral Institutions

  • Context (IE): Nobel Laureate pitched for reforms in multilateral institutions given the failure of the UN in resolving the ongoing problems to humanity.

Importance of multilateral institutions

  • Global challenges and crisis such as conflicts, climate change, migration, macroeconomic instability, and cybersecurity can indeed only be solved collectively.
  • Ensures Stable world order: Achievements of UN Peacekeeping forces, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons etc.
  • Forum to cooperate on Global challenges: Climate change, food security, terrorism, Pandemic, cyber security, fake news, etc.
  • Mobilize resources for innovations: Creation of innovation funds (e.g., UNICEF Innovation Fund, UNDP Innovation Facility), provide unlimited networks of experts at the global, regional and local country level.

Need for reforming multilateral institutions

  • Lack of Inclusive representation: For eg., lack of representation of far East regions, and rising economies in UNSC.
  • High jacking of multilateral institutions by developed countries: Chequebook diplomacy of China, misuse of Veto rights by P5 members, etc.
  • Rising hyper-nationalism, anti-immigration politics fuelled by political opportunism, diminish the appeal of international cooperation. For e.g., America’s first policy manifested in the form of withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal, etc.
  • Disillusionment with globalization: Failure of global governance in the post-Bretton Woods system to resolve issues of slow growth, rising inequality, falling labor force participation, migration, social fragmentation and job insecurity associated with globalization and automation.
  • Failure of institutions to deliver their mandate: For e.g. WTO’s failure to handle the US-China trade war, UNSC’s failure in Chinese unchecked belligerence in the South China Sea, inadequate response of WHO in handling the pandemic, etc.

Way Forward

  • Set focussed narrative as currently the multilateralism reform narrative lives only in elite circles and some national capitals, particularly the emerging powers.
  • Encouraging Mini-lateral groupings as a new form of multilateralism and transforming them into multi-stakeholder partnerships.
  • Creating new models of multilateralism to overcome the trust, legitimacy and utility crises of multilateralism.

{GS2 – MoCI – Initiative} Enhancing Production of Affordable Cooling Devices

  • Context (PIB): The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, partnered with the World Bank to host a successful workshop on “Alleviating Heat Stress by Enhancing Production of Affordable Cooling Devices (AHEAD).
  • The Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF&CC) and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) supported the initiative.

Significance of Affordable Cooling Devices Production

  • Rising demand: Increased global warming, the growing Indian economy, and increased purchase power will likely increase overall cooling demand by 10 times in the next two decades.
  • Safeguard GDP: Cooling interventions have the potential to save approximately 4.5% of GDP, nearly 329 billion USD, at risk by 2030 due to heatwaves.
  • Protect agricultural produce: The existing cold chain for agricultural produce meets only 4% of the total requirement.
  • Save foreign exchange: India spent nearly a billion USD in 2022-23 foreign exchange on importing cooling device components.
  • Help achieve India Cooling Action Plan target: The plan announced in 2019 to address the cooling emissions aims to reduce power consumption for cooling across sectors by 20-25% by 2038.
  • Uphold India’s commitment: It will show that India earnestly wants to reduce cooling emissions despite not being a part of the Global Cooling Pledge.

Global Cooling Pledge (GCP)

  • Sixty-three countries, including the US, have committed to the world’s first-ever Global Cooling Pledge at COP28 of UNFCCC.
  • The GCP mandates countries to cut cooling emissions by at least 68% by 2050.
    • Cooling emissions are generated from refrigerants (used in appliances like ACs and refrigerators) and the energy used for cooling.

Why was India Reluctant to Sign the Global Cooling Pledge?

  1. Global Warming
    • With the rising global warming, cooling is not merely a luxury but essential for promoting overall well-being and improving living standards for a country like India.
    • Strict adherence to the ambitious targets of GCP may temporarily limit access to affordable cooling.
  2. Economic Growth and Investment
    • Transitioning to sustainable cooling technologies requires substantial investments that may strain the country’s economy and halt economic development.
  3. Not a Historical Contributor
    • India, a non-historical emitter, should not be unreasonably burdened to mitigate climate change.
    • goes against the Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC) principle, enshrined in the Earth Summit 1992.

Way Ahead for Affordable Cooling Devices Production

  • Focus on overcoming domestic manufacturing challenges.
  • Exploring innovative policy and financing strategies.
  • Position India as a Global Manufacturing Hub for sustainable and affordable cooling technologies.
  • R&D for production of higher quality & cost-effective cooling devices.

{GS2 – MoEF&CC – Schemes} Indian Forest and Wood Certification Scheme

  • Context (IE | PIB): The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has launched the Indian Forest & Wood Certification Scheme (IFWCS).
  • This voluntary third-party certification scheme includes:
    1. Forest management certification
    2. Tree outside forest management certification
    3. Chain of custody certification
  • IFWCS will offer market rewards to compliant entities. This includes:
    • State forest departments
    • Individual farmers or farmer producer organisations engaged in agroforestry & farm forestry
    • Wood-based industries in the value chain
  • It is based on the Indian Forest Management Standard, an integral part of the National Working Plan Code 2023.
  • It will be overseen by the Indian Forest and Wood Certification Council, which will act as a multistakeholder advisory body.
  • The Council is represented by members from:
    1. Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education
    2. Forest Survey of India
    3. Quality Council of India
    4. Indian Institute of Forest Management
    5. Ministries of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoA&FW)
    6. Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI)
    7. State Forest Departments
    8. Forest Development Corporations
    9. Representatives from wood-based industries
  • Its operating agency will be the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal.
  • The National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies, under the Quality Council of India, will accredit certification bodies to independently audit and assess entities’ adherence to prescribed standards in the scheme.

Significance of the IFWCS

  • Promotes sustainable forest management and agroforestry: It incentivises responsible forest management and agroforestry by rewarding compliant industries.
  • Address global deforestation and illegal timber trade concerns: The “national” forest certification scheme will validate sustainable forest management entities.
  • Alternative to the private foreign certification agencies: Concerns about the credibility of foreign certifications have affected the acceptance of Indian products in global markets and led to a high dropout rate among certified entities.

{GS2 – MoSJE – Initiatives} Panel report on NSFDC

  • Context (TH): The Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes pressed for the induction of an SC candidate into the Board of Directors of National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC).
  • The Committee also sought an update on the non-performance of 20 of the 37 State SC Development Corporations.

National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC)

  • NSFDC was set up as the National Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSCSTFDC) in 1989.
  • After 2001, it is solely working for the empowerment of Schedules Castes.
  • It is a fully owned GoI Company under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013, working under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (MOSJ&E).
  • It is headquartered in Delhi.
  • It provides financial assistance for income-generating schemes for the target group through State Channelising Agencies (SCAs).
  • It also supplies funds for the economic empowerment of scheduled caste persons having annual family income up to Rs. 3.00 lakh for both rural and urban areas.
  • It is governed through the Board of Directors with representation from the Central Government, State Scheduled Castes Development Corporations, Financial Institutions and non-official Scheduled Castes members.

{GS2 – MoTA – Initiatives} TRIFED

  • Context (PIB): GoI has taken several steps to strengthen the supply chain and market linkages of tribal cooperatives through Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED).

TRIFED

  • It was established in 1987 under the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act, 1984.
  • It is a national-level apex organization functioning under the administrative control of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MTA).
  • Its basic mandate is to bring about the socio-economic development of tribal people of the country.

Activities Undertaken by TRIFED

  • It helps in the marketing of tribal produce/products through strengthening the supply chain and providing market linkages.
  • It aids in the implementation of schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Janjatiya Vikas Mission (PMJVM) scheme, VanDhan Vikas Karyakram, haat bazaars etc.
  • TRIFED is a nodal agency for implementing the MSP for Minor Forest Produce (MFP).

Minor Forest Produce (MFP)

  • The forest dwellers are legally empowered with the ownership and governance of the MFP through the PESA (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act-1996, and the Forest Rights Act (FRA)-2006.
  • MFP includes all non-timber forest produce of plant origin including bamboo, brushwood, stumps, cane, tussar, cocoons, honey, wax, lac, tendu or kendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, tubers and the like.
  • FRA 2006, entitles tribals with the “right of ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce which has been traditionally collected within or outside village boundaries”.

{GS2 – Polity – IC – Laws} Telecom Bill 2023

  • Context (IE I PRS I TH): The Telecommunications Bill, 2023 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Union minister for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology.
  • The Bill seeks to regulate activities related to telecommunication.
  • It repeals the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, of 1950.
  • It also amends the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, 1997.

Features of the Bill

Authorisation for Telecom-related Activities

  • The GoI will have exclusive powers to lay telecom infrastructure, operate telecom networks, and provide telecom services.
  • Other stakeholders will require prior authorization from the GoI to:
    1. Provide telecommunication services,
    2. Establish, operate, maintain, or expand telecommunications networks,
    3. Possess radio equipment.
  • Government Directives for Message Transmission: The GoI can direct telecom services to transmit specific messages in the public interest.
  • It empowers the GoI to take over control and management of telecommunication services and networks in the interest of national security, or the event of a war.
  • Press Message Regulations: The Bill stipulates conditions under which press messages may be intercepted, detained, or prohibited from transmission.

Assignment of Spectrum

  • Spectrum will be assigned by auction, except for specified uses (national security and defence, disaster management, weather forecasting, transport), where it will be allocated on an administrative basis.
  • The bill also includes administrative allocation of spectrum for satellite broadband services, which is the global norm for assigning spectrum to entities.
    • Bharti Airtel’s OneWeb, Elon Musk’s Starlink, and Amazon’s Kuiper will gain from this provision.
  • Government allocation of natural resources like spectrum had become a strict no after the 2012 SC decision that held 2G spectrum allocation as illegal.
  • The Bill allows telcos to “Reform” spectrum or use it for other technologies than initially intended when they bought it. For eg, 4G spectrum can be repurposed for 5G under the Bill’s provisions.
  • Spectrum can also be “harmonized”, or strategically shared across different geographies by different telcos, and it can be surrendered if lying unused.
  • The Bill also opens the door for sharing, trading, and leasing of spectrum.

What includes Telecommunication Services?

  • Telecommunication services are defined as services provided over a telecommunication network and include:
    1. Communication services over a telecom network such as voice calling and SMS,
    2. Internet and broadband services,
    3. Data communication services,
    4. Interpersonal communication services, and
    5. Satellite communication services. 
The draft bill included email, internet-based communication services, broadcasting services, machine-to-machine communication services, and over-the-top (OTT) communication services.

Powers of Interception and Search

  • The GoI may intercept, monitor, or block messages or a class of messages between two or more persons.
  • Such actions must be in the interest of specified grounds which include:
    1. Necessary or expedient in the interest of public safety or public emergency,
    2. Interest in national security,
    3. Friendly relations with other countries
    4. Prevention of incitement of offences,
    5. Public order
    6. Prevention of incitement of offense.
  • Telecom services may be suspended on similar grounds (Mentioned above).
  • An officer authorized by the government may search premises or vehicles for possession of an unauthorized telecom network or equipment.

Temporary possession and standards

  • The GoI may take temporary possession of any telecom infrastructure, network, or services on the occurrence of any public emergency or public safety.
  • GoI may prescribe standards for telecom equipment, infrastructure, network, and services.

Right of way

  • Facility providers may seek a right of way over public or private property to establish telecom infrastructure.
  • In the case of private entities, the requesting entity and the permitting entity may agree to facilitate the laying of infrastructure.

Protection of users

  • GoI may provide measures to protect users which include:
    • Prior consent to receive specified messages such as advertising messages,
    • Creation of Do Not Disturb registers,
    • A mechanism to allow users to report malware or specified messages.
  • Entities providing telecom services must establish an online mechanism for registration b redressal of grievances.

Identification of users

  • Entities have been mandated to carry out biometric authentication and Identification of their users as a measure to curb fraud.
  • User shall not furnish any false particulars, suppress information, or impersonate another person for availing telecom services. Such contravention will be punishable.

Amendments to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)

  • Appointments to TRAI:
    • At least 30 years of professional experience to serve as the chairperson (Individuals from the private sector can also be eligible),
    • At least 25 years of professional experience to serve as members.
  • The Bill removes the requirement for GoI to seek recommendations from TRAI in matters of introduction of a new service provider and Terms and conditions of the license to a service provider.

Digital Bharat Nidhi

  • The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) has been established under the 1885 Act (Telegraph Act) to provide telecom services in underserved areas.
  • The Bill retains this provision and renames the fund as Digital Bharat Nidhi (DBN).
  • DBN may also be used for:
    • Research and development of new telecom services, technologies, and products,
    • Supporting skill development and training in telecom.

Offenses and penalties

  • The Bill specifies various criminal and civil offenses.
    • Providing telecom services without authorization, or gaining unauthorized access to a telecom network or data
    • Breaching terms and conditions of authorization
    • Possessing unauthorized equipment, or using an unauthorized network or service

Adjudication Process

  • A tiered structure for settling disputes arising out of breach of terms and conditions involving an adjudicating officer, designated committee of appeals, and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on top.
TDSAT is empowered to adjudicate upon any dispute between the Licensor and a Licensee; two or more service providers; and between a service provider and a group of consumers.

Key Issues and Analysis

Interception of Communication

  • The Bill may enable mass surveillance. Such measures may violate right to privacy.
  • The Bill has not incorporated procedural safeguards mandated by the SC to safeguard the right to privacy in case of interception of communication. Currently, these safeguards have been provided through Rules under the Indian Telegraph Act, of 1885 (Now replaced).
  • Validity of orders: The Bill provides that an order under the above provisions may remain in effect as long as a public emergency or impediment to public safety exists.
  • Who can issue orders? Any specially authorized officer by the central government or state government may issue orders for interception, monitoring, or blocking.
  • The Bill does not provide for any oversight mechanism for interception orders.
SC on Interception of Communication and FRs under IC
  • In PUCL vs Union of India (1996): There should be a just and fair procedure to regulate the powers of interception of communication and to safeguard the rights of citizens under Articles 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of IC.
  • Safeguards mandated by SC (PUCL vs Union of India)
    1. Establishing necessity: The order should highlight the objective and necessity to intercept, monitor, or block messages or suspend Internet services.
    2. Purpose limitation: Use of intercepted material should be limited to the minimum that is necessary to meet the objective,
    3. Time limit: Initial order only to be valid for two months, extension of a maximum of six months at once,
    4. Issuance of orders: By high-ranked officials (Home Secretary) and mandatory review (by a Committee headed by Cabinet Secretary).
    5. Oversight Mechanism: Oversight through a committee consisting exclusively of government officials.
  • In KS Puttaswamy’s (2017) case, SC recognised the right to privacy as a facet of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • In Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India (2020, suspension of Internet services), SC held freedom of speech and expression and freedom of trade and business over the Internet are protected under Article 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) of the IC.

Other Issues

  • The Bill has been categorized as a money bill which reduces and restrict Rajya Sabha’s scrutiny.
  • The Ministries of Finance, Corporate Affairs, and Commerce and Industry said DoT cannot make laws on subjects that do not fall solely in its domain and have revenue implications for the GoI.
  • The GoI will have the power to issue licenses for telecom networks as well as services. This raises the question of whether they should be regulated similarly.
  • The bill excludes the obligation of GoI to consult TRAI on licensing issues, which weakens TRAI’s role and make it a rubber stamp of GoI.
  • In case of offenses by companies, the Bill does not protect employees on account of lack of knowledge or if they have exercised due diligence.
  • It also does not hold the director, manager, or other officers liable for connivance or neglect.
  • The role of the Rajya Sabha in a money bill’s passage is limited.
  • While they are sent to the parliament’s upper house for its recommendations, it cannot reject or amend a money bill.
  • Some definitions may need a re-look. For eg, mobile phones would fall under the definition of wireless equipment. This would imply prior authorization is required to possess a mobile phone.
  • Experts say that the GoI cannot take coercive action against states or municipal corporations to impose ‘right of way’ rules, as land is a state subject.
  • Identification of users by entities using Biometric authentication has raised concerns of privacy.
  • It is unclear how these provisions could potentially impact calls over WhatsApp which are typically end-to-end encrypted; meaning the company does not have access to the information being transmitted over such calls.
  • The bill may lead to dual regulation for a host of online services, including platforms like Google Pay and Paytm which offer messaging as an ancillary service.

Significance of the Bill

  • Enhanced Security Measures: The Bill’s provisions for government intervention in telecom services during emergencies highlight a focus on national security and public safety.
  • Balancing Security and Freedom: While ensuring security, the Bill also acknowledges the need to safeguard press freedom, with specific rules for accredited correspondents.
  • Modern Regulatory Framework: By replacing outdated laws, the bill aims to create a regulatory environment that aligns with current technological advancements and societal needs.
  • Auction VS Allocation: After 2012 SC verdict, the Government allocation of natural resources like spectrum was completely banned. It is against this backdrop that the Telecom Bill is significant, that administrative assignment of spectrum may have advantages too.

{GS2 – Polity – IC – Parliament} Delimitation

  • Context (TH I TOI I IE): The SC has directed the GOI to establish a Delimitation Commission to address the need for increased reserved seats for SCs and STs in Lok Sabha and State assemblies.
  • Delimitation of boundaries of constituencies play a very important role in avoiding qualitative and quantitative dilution.
  • Delimitation of constituencies plays a major role in strengthening or weakening democracy.
  • Delimitation means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country to represent population changes.

Need for Delimitation

  • To provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
  • Fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
  • To follow the principle of “One Vote One Value”.

Process of Delimitation

  • Under Article 82 of the IC, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Under Article 170 of the IC, States are divided into territorial constituencies as per the Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Once the Act is in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission.
  • The Commission, in consultation with State Election Commissions, examines changes in the population to redraw constituencies or create new ones.
  • The draft proposals of the Delimitation Commission are published for public feedback.
  • After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
  • The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette concerned and comes into force on a date specified by the President.

Delimitation Exercises in India

  • In the history of India, Delimitation Commissions have been set up four times – 1952, 1963, 1973, and 2002 under the Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972, and 2002.

First Delimitation Commission, 1952

  • Identified 86 constituencies as two-member constituencies, which was abolished by the Two Member Constituencies (Abolition) Act, 1961.
  • Two member constituencies meant that a single constituency would return two members, one from the SC-ST category and another from the general category.
  • One of the main reasons behind abolition was to ensure fair representation and avoid discrimination against certain communities or groups.
  • It was observed that in some cases, one community or group would dominate both seats in a two-member constituency, leading to underrepresentation of other communities.

Second Delimitation Commission, 1963 and Third Delimitation Commission, 1973

  • The second and third delimitation orders in 1967 and 1976 increased the number of Lok Sabha seats and State Assembly seats.

Fourth Delimitation Commission, 2002

  • The Delimitation Act of 2002 did not give power to the Delimitation Commission to increase the number of seats.
  • The 87th Amendment Act of 2003 provided for the delimitation of constituencies based on the 2001 census and not the 1991 census.
  • The commission was mandated that the boundaries within the existing constituencies should be readjusted.
  • The Commission reassigned reserved constituencies and increased the number of seats for SCs from 79 to 84 and STs from 41 to 47 based on the increase in population.
  • It also left out a few states including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Manipur from the exercise due to “security risks.
  • The GoI reconstituted the Delimitation Commission for these 4 states and the UT of Jammu and Kashmir on 6 March 2020.
Section 8A of RPA, 1950 allows for the delimitation of Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.

Why have we not seen delimitation exercises after each census?

  • The 42nd Amendment Act in 1976 froze the population figure of the 1971 Census for delimitation till the 2001 Census.
  • During the Emergency era, the GOI cited “family planning policies” as the reason for this suspension.
  • The idea was to give states time to reduce their fertility rates and ensure parity across the country
  • In 2002, delimitation was delayed for another 25 years (Till 2026), with the 84th Amendment under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government.

Issues with Delimitation

  • The IC mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is the same for all states.
  • However, this meant that states that took little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in the Parliament.
  • The southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced, disenfranchising them politically.
  • The population of Rajasthan, Haryana, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Gujarat has increased by more than 125% between 1971 and 2011.
  • The population of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, and Odisha has increased by less than 100% due to stricter population control measures.
  • The Constitution has also capped the number of Lok Shaba & Rajya Sabha seats to a maximum of 550 & 250 respectively and a single representative is representing increasing populations.

Way forward

  • An equal voice in a democracy is vital, but recognizing the regional balance of power and contributions and taking everyone along is also essential in a federal structure. For eg, the USA gives all states the same number of seats in one parliament chamber.

{GS2 – Social Sector – Health – Disease} Noma

  • The name ‘Noma’ is derived from the Greek word “nomē”, meaning “to devour”, as noma eats away facial tissue and bones if not treated early.
  • Also known as cancrum oris or gangrenous stomatitis, it is a severe gangrenous disease of the mouth and face with a mortality rate of approximately 90%.
  • It is associated with extreme poverty, malnutrition and poor access to sanitation and oral hygiene.
  • While the disease is not contagious, it prefers to attack when the body’s defenses are weak.
  • It starts in the mouth as bacteria-induced necrotizing gingivitis. It progresses to necrotizing periodontitis and then to necrotising stomatitis.
  • Affected Population: It mainly affects children aged 2-6 years old. It can also occur among immunocompromised adults due to HIV, leukemia and other diseases.
  • Prevalent in Africa, Asia and Asia-Pacific, the Americas, the Middle East and Europe.
  • Treatment includes prescription of widely available antibiotics, advice and support on practices to improve oral hygiene, disinfectant mouthwash, and nutrition supplements.

Neglected Tropical Disease (NTDs)

  • As per WHO, NTDs are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions and affect more than one billion people worldwide.
  • Why are they called ‘Neglected’? These remain underreported because the victims are the poorest and the most marginalized, with no access to treatment and reporting.
    • Further, these diseases are often overlooked by drug developers, government officials, public health programs and the news media.
  • Affected population: Populations living in poverty, with poor sanitation & unsafe drinking water, substandard housing, close contact with infectious vectors, and little or no access to health care.
  • NTDs kill approx. >5 lakh people annually.
  • India is home to the world’s largest absolute burden of at least 11 major neglected tropical diseases.

GoI Initiatives to curb NTDs

  • National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) for control of Dengue and elimination of Kala-azar and Lymphatic Filariasis.
  • National Leprosy Eradication Programme
  • National Programme for Control of Blindness wherein services are provided for control of Trachoma.

{GS3 – Envi – Laws} District Mineral Foundations (DMFs)

  • These are set up under Section 9B of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015.
  • It is a trust set up as a non-profit body by State governments in districts affected by mining works.
  • It is a non-lapsable fund, separately set up for each district.
  • It is funded through contributions from miners.
  • The mining companies are required to pay DMF 30% of the royalty amount for leases granted before 2015 and 10% for leases granted through the auction mechanism post-2015,
  • The operation and composition of DMF comes under the jurisdiction of the State Governments.
  • The central government may give directions regarding the composition and utilisation of funds by DMFs.
  • The DMFs are expected to implement the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana using the funds.

Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana

  • It was launched in 2015 to provide for welfare of areas & people affected by mining-related operations.

Usage of funds

  • At least 60% of the funds to be used in High priority areas like drinking water supply, health care, sanitation, education, women, childcare, welfare of aged & disabled people, etc.
  • Up to 40% of the funds for creating a supportive and conducive living environment. It will be spent on making roads, bridges, railways, waterways projects, irrigation and alternative energy sources.
  • Not more than 5% of the funds can be used for administrative expenses.

Coverage

  • Affected areas: All areas directly and indirectly affected by mining-related operations.
  • Affected persons: It includes those who have legal rights over the land being mined, who have occupational rights and other traditional rights on mined lands.

Participatory Decision making

  • The DMFs can take all major decisions in consultation with the ‘gram sabhas’ of the respective villages, including identification of beneficiaries.
  • For the 5th and 6th scheduled areas, mandatory approval of Gram Sabha is required for all plans, programs and projects to be taken up under PMKKKY and identification of beneficiaries.

Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 2015

  • The Act amends the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.
  • New category of mining license: i.e. the prospecting license-cum-mining lease is created. It will be granted by state governments for both notified (with the approval of central government) and other minerals.
  • All leases shall be granted through auction by competitive bidding, including e-auction.
  • It provides for the creation of:
    1. District Mineral Foundation (DMF)
    2. National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET)

National Mineral Exploration Trust

  • It is a trust set up as a non-profit body by the Central Government.
  • Mandate: For regional and detailed exploration of minerals, with special emphasis on strategic and critical minerals.
  • Rate of contribution to NMET: 2% of royalty paid.

{GS3 – Envi – Water Pollution} Oil Spill

  • Context (TH | TH | TNIE): In the aftermath of Cyclone Michaung, the oil-mixed floodwater Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL) refinery has entered the wetlands and rivers.

Major Affected Waterbodies

Ennore Creek

  • Ennore Creek is a backwater in Chennai along the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal.
  • As an arm of the Kosathalaiyar River, it meets the Bay of Bengal.
  • One of the channels of the creek connects to the Pulicat Lake.
  • It has been in the news recently due to concerns about pollution from nearby industries.

Ennore Creek

Buckingham Canal

  • It is a freshwater navigation canal that parallels the Coromandel Coast.
  • It extends from the Kakinada district of Andhra Prades h to the Cuddalore District of TN.
  • The canal connects most natural backwaters along the coast to Chennai port.

Kosasthalaiyar River

  • It is one of the three rivers that flow in the Chennai metropolitan area, the other two being the Adyar River and the Cooum River.
  • It originates in Tiruvallur district, TN and drains into the Bay of Bengal.

Pulicat Lake

  • It is India’s second largest brackish water lagoon (after Chilika Lake).
  • It is nestled between TN and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The lagoon encompasses the Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary.
  • The barrier island of Sriharikota separates the lagoon from the Bay of Bengal.

Pulicat Lake

Concerns with Oil Spill

  • Contamination of water
  • Habitat destruction of aquatic species
  • Bioaccumulation: Oil accumulates in organisms’ tissues, becoming more concentrated as it moves up the food chain.
  • Destruction of the fishing industry

Cyclone Michaung

  • It is a super-cyclonic storm that has made landfall over Nellore in Andhra Pradesh.
  • This tropical cyclone over the Bay of Bengal was named Michaung by Myanmar.

{GS3 – IE – Industries} National Geoscience Data Repository (NGDR) Portal

  • Context (TH): The Ministry of Mines launched the National Geoscience Data Repository (NGDR) Portal.
  • NGDR is a flagship initiative of the Ministry of Mines as a part of the National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP), 2016.
  • NGDR is an online platform for accessing, sharing, and analyzing geospatial information nationwide.
  • The NGDR portal will also be available on the Android app and in offline mode.
  • The NGDR initiative was spearheaded by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the Bhaskarachaya Institute of Space Applications and Geoinformatics (BISAG-N).
  • It will host and disseminate exploration-related geoscientific data to aid in mineral exploration.
  • It is conceptualized as an Open-source, Cloud-hosted and LINUX-implemented platform.

National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP), 2016

  • It targets the exploration of deep-seated and concealed mineral deposits.
  • It has proposed to undertake quick aero-geophysical surveys of the country and create of dedicated geoscience database etc.
  • The Ministry of Mines will carry out the auctioning of identified exploration blocks for exploration by the private sector.
  • Use of space technology to check illegal mining by developing a mining surveillance system is suggested.
  • A not-for-profit autonomous institution known as the National Centre for Mineral Targeting (NCMT) is proposed to be established.

Geological Survey of India (GSI)

  • GSI was set up in 1851 primarily to find coal deposits for the Railways.
  • Headquartered in Kolkata, it has six regional offices located in Lucknow, Jaipur, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Shillong and Kolkata.
  • It is an attached office of the Ministry of Mines.
  • It creates and updates the national geoscientific information and mineral resource assessment.
  • It also documents the surface and subsurface geological processes of India and its offshore areas.

BISAG-N

  • BISAG-N is an Autonomous Scientific Society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
  • It works under MeitY, Government of India.
  • It is located in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
  • It works in the domain of R&D and capacity building related to geospatial technology.
  • BISAG-N has implemented a Geographic Information System (GIS) for governmental application.

{GS3 – Infra – Transportation} Logistics Ease Across Different States (LEADS) 2023

  • LEADS is an indigenous data-driven index to assess logistics infrastructure, services, and human resources across all States and UTs.
  • The 1st report was launched in 2018 and is published annually (except in 2020 due to COVID).
  • It is conceived on the lines of the Logistics Performance Index of WB.
  • While the LPI relies entirely on perception-based surveys, LEADS incorporates both perception as well as objectivity thereby enhancing the robustness and comprehensiveness of this exercise.
  • Objective: It ranks States and UTs on the efficiency of their logistics ecosystem, highlights the key logistics-related challenges faced by the stakeholders and includes suggestive recommendations.
  • Methodology: The survey processes the data received from stakeholders (perception data) and States/ UTs (objective data) and ranks the logistics ecosystem of each State/ UT using a statistical model.

LEADS 2023 Report

  • It signaledpositive shift in States’ performance across the key pillars – Logistics Infrastructure, Logistics Services and Operating and Regulatory Environment, 
  • It empowers the State/UT Governments by providing region-specific insights for informed decision-making and comprehensive growth.
  • The report assesses states under 4 categories:
    1. Coastal states,
    2. Landlocked states,
    3. North-eastern states,
    4. Union Territories.
  • Performance Categories:
    1. Achievers (States/UTs achieving 90% or more percentage): Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, TN, Haryana, Punjab, UP, Sikkim, Tripura, Delhi, Chandigarh.
    2. Fast Movers (States/UTs achieving percentage scores between 80% to 90%): Kerala, Maharashtra, MP, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, A&N, Puducherry, Lakshadweep.
    3. Aspirers (States/UTs achieving percentage scores below 80%): Goa, WB, Odisha, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, HP, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, Ladakh, J&K, and Daman & Diu and Dadar & Nagar Haveli.

{GS3 – S&T – ISRO} Aditya L-1 Mission

  • Context (PIB): Aditya-L1, India’s first solar mission, will reach its destination, Lagrange Point 1, early next month.
  • Aditya-L1 was launched by ISRO using Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) XL.
  • Aditya-L1 spacecraft will be inserted into a halo orbit around the L1 point of the Sun-Earth system.
  • It will be placed about 1.5 million km from the Earth (covering only 1% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun)
  • It will collect data for five years by continuously observing the Sun.
  • ISRO will become the third space agency after NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to place an observatory at the L1 point between the Earth and the Sun.

Objectives of Aditya-L1 Mission

  • To study the solar atmosphere, which includes corona, chromosphere, and photoshere.
  • To examine solar emissions, including solar winds, flares, and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), and see how they drive space weather.

Solar Atmosphere

  • Corona: It is the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere. It is a distinctive atmosphere of plasma that surrounds the Sun.
  • Chromosphere: It is just below the corona. It is a relatively thin layer of burning gases.
  • Photosphere: It is the lowest layer of the solar atmosphere and the Sun’s visible surface. The bright outer layer of the Sun emits most of the radiation.

Solar Emissions

  • Solar winds: They are streams of plasma particles ejected from the Sun’s outermost atmosphere.
  • Coronal mass ejections (CMEs): They are large expulsion of plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun’s outermost atmosphere.
  • Solar flares: They are intense eruptions of electromagnetic radiation in the Sun’s atmosphere caused by the release of magnetic energy from sunspots.
    • They can be damaging to satellites and electronics on Earth.
  • Compared to solar flares (which reach the Earth in 8 mins), CMEs travel more leisurely.

Sun

Importance of Studying the Sun from Space

  • Every planet, including Earth, evolves, and this evolution is governed by its parent star, i.e., the Sun.
  • The solar weather affects the entire solar system weather. Variations in this weather can change the orbits of satellites or shorten their lives, interfere with or damage onboard electronics, etc.
  • Studying the Sun helps track and predict the impact of Earth-directed storms.
  • The sun’s thermal and magnetic phenomena are of extreme nature and cannot be studied in the lab.
  • The Earth’s atmosphere is a protective shield that blocks harmful radiations like UV rays. So, studying the Sun from the Earth can’t provide a complete picture.

L1 (Lagrange 1) Point: Location Around which Aditya L-1 Spacecraft will be Placed

  • A Lagrange point is a point in space where the gravitational forces of two large bodies (such as the Sun and the Earth) balance the centrifugal force experienced by a smaller object (such as a satellite), allowing it to remain ‘fixed’ in relation to the larger bodies.
  • For any two celestial bodies, there are five Lagrange points (L1 to L5).
  • Of the five Lagrangian points between the Earth and the Sun, there are:
    • Three unstable points (L1, L2, & L3): If disturbed, objects placed at these points will drift away and require constant adjustments to stay in position.
    • Two stable points (L4 & L5): Objects at these points orbit around these points; do not drift away.

Lagrange Point

What is Halo Orbit?

  • A spacecraft can orbit around an unstable Lagrange point with a minimum use of thrusters for stationkeeping. Such an orbit is known as a halo orbit.
  • It is different from a usual orbit (like the orbit of Earth around the Sun) because the unstable Lagrange point doesn’t exert any attractive force on its own.

Why is the Halo Orbit of L-1 Point Chosen for Placing the Aditya L-1 Spacecraft?

  • A satellite in the halo orbit around the L1 point can continuously view the Sun without occultation/eclipses.
  • Every geomagnetic storm from the Sun that heads towards Earth passes through L1, so a satellite in the halo orbit can track these storms and predict their impact.
  • Satellites placed at Lagrange points can remain in a fixed position with minimal fuel consumption.
    • These points are the ‘parking spots’ for spacecraft
  • The L1 point is home to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Satellite (SOHO), an international collaboration project of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) XL: The Launch Vehicle of Aditya L-1 Spacecraft

  • PSLV is an indigenously developed expendable launch system.
  • PSLV was developed in the 1990s by ISRO to place satellites in polar and near polar (e.g. sun-synchronous orbit) Lower Earth Orbits. e.g., Astrosat (India’s first space observatory).
  • However, several PSLV missions successfully sent satellites toward geosynchronous transfer orbits over the last decade. e.g. Chandrayaan-1 (India’s first lunar probe) and Mars Orbiter Mission or Mangalyaan (India’s first interplanetary mission).
  • It can fly in different configurations depending on the mass of its payload and the target orbit.
  • PSLV is a four-stage launch vehicle.
    • The first and third stages are solid-fuelled.
    • The second and fourth stages are liquid-fuelled.
    • The second stage engine, Vikas, is a derivative of France’s Viking engine.
  • It is called the ‘workhorse of ISRO’ because it has the highest number of successful launches.
  • The PSLV XL variant has six rocket strap-on motors to augment the thrust provided by its first stage.
  • An expendable launch system is used only once to carry a payload into space. E.g. PSLV, GSLV, etc.

How will Aditya-L1 Reach the Halo Orbit Around the L1 Point?

  • Aditya L1 is launched from SatishSriharikota to Low-earth Orbit.
  • It stayed in Earth-bound orbits for 16 days, undergoing orbital adjustment maneuvres to leave Earth’s Sphere of Influence (SOI).
  • Subsequently, Aditya-L1 underwent a Trans-Lagrangian1 insertion (TL1I) manoeuvre, marking the beginning of its 110-day trajectory to the destination around the L1 Lagrange point.
  • After the TL1I, ISRO found the trajectory errors that needed correction. So, TCM was performed.
  • Upon arrival at the L1 point, another manoeuvre will bind Aditya-L1 to a Halo orbit around L1 (a balanced gravitational location between the Earth and the Sun).

Earth’s sphere of influence (SOI)

  • It is the region of space around the Earth where its gravity dominates over the gravity of the Sun.
  • Objects within the Earth’s SOI are said to be in orbit around the Earth. This includes the Moon, artificial satellites, and other space debris.
  • Objects outside the Earth’s SOI are said to be in orbit around the Sun.

Trajectory Correction Manoeuvre (TCM)

  • TCM (or Trim Manoeuvre) is a manoeuvre used to correct a spacecraft’s trajectory.
  • TCM ensures a spacecraft arrives at its destination on time with the correct velocity and orientation.
  • It can be performed at any point in a mission but is typically done during the cruise phase.
  • TCM is performed by firing the spacecraft’s engines for a period of time. The direction and duration of the burn will depend on the desired change in trajectory.
  • TCMs are required only in deep space missions.
  • Cruise phase: Time period between the spacecraft’s launch and its arrival at its destination.

Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM)

  • Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM), identical to the one used in the Mars and Chandrayaan missions, is used for Aditya L1’s orbital adjustment maneuvres.
  • Once Aditya L1 spacecraft exits the Earth’s SOI and heads toward its destination, the L1 Point, the LAM will shut down.
  • LAM will be restarted as Aditya L1 closes to its destination.
  • It will again perform orbital adjustment maneuvres and place Aditya L1 in the desired halo orbit at L1.

Halo Orbit

Payloads of Aditya-L1 Mission

  • There are seven payloads on board the Aditya-L1 Mission, with four for remote sensing of the Sun and three for in-situ observation.

Payload

Capability

Remote Sensing Payloads

Visible Emission Line Corona-graph (VELC)

(Main Payload)

Solar corona imaging
Solar Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (SUIT) UV imaging of solar photosphere and chromosphere
Solar Low Energy X-ray Spectrometer (SoLEXS) Study X-ray flares

In-situ Payloads

Aditya Solar wind Particle EXperiment (ASPEX) Study the solar wind and energetic ions
Plasma Analyser Package for Aditya (PAPA) Study the solar wind and energetic ions
Advanced Tri-axial High-Resolution Digital Magnetometers Study in-situ magnetic field
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