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Current Affairs 01 April 2024

  1. ECI Raises Concerns Over Non-Biodegradable Materials in Elections
  2. India Emerges as the Leading Global Arms Importer: SIPRI Data
  3. IIT Kanpur Collaborates with Canadian Biotechnology Company for Innovative Bone Healing Technology
  4. Global Spread of H5N1 Bird Flu Poses Threat to Wildlife and Mammalian Species
  5. Financial Action Task Force
  6. Central Pollution Control Board
  7. Konda Reddi Tribe


Context:

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has recently reiterated its concerns regarding the environmental hazards posed by the use of non-biodegradable materials in election campaigns. Since 1999, the ECI has been urging political parties and candidates to refrain from using plastic or polythene for the preparation of election-related materials. This ongoing initiative underscores the Commission’s commitment to promoting environmentally responsible practices during elections. As concerns about environmental sustainability continue to grow, the ECI’s efforts to encourage the adoption of eco-friendly alternatives in electoral processes are increasingly relevant and important.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Concept of Green Elections
  2. Need for a Shift Toward Green Elections
  3. Successful Examples of Eco-friendly Electoral Initiatives
  4. Challenges in Adoption of Green Elections

Concept of Green Elections

  • Green Elections refer to environmentally conscious practices implemented to mitigate the environmental impact of electoral processes. These practices prioritize sustainability, eco-friendliness, and resource efficiency.
Key Components:
  • Sustainable Materials: Encourage candidates and parties to use recycled paper, biodegradable banners, and reusable materials for campaign purposes.
  • Energy Efficiency: Adopt energy-efficient lighting, sound systems, and transportation methods during rallies to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Digital Campaigning: Utilize digital platforms like websites, social media, and email for campaigning to minimize paper usage and energy consumption.

Need for a Shift Toward Green Elections

Environmental Consequences of Traditional Election Processes:

Carbon Emissions from Campaign Flights:

  • Emissions from campaign flights during elections can have a substantial impact on the carbon footprint.
  • Example: In the 2016 US presidential elections, the emissions from a single candidate’s campaign flights equaled the annual carbon footprint of 500 Americans.

Deforestation and Energy-Intensive Production:

  • Heavy reliance on paper-based materials for ballots, campaign literature, and administrative documents leads to deforestation and energy-intensive production processes.

Energy Consumption from Large-Scale Rallies:

  • Grand election rallies equipped with energy-consuming equipment such as loudspeakers and lighting contribute significantly to energy consumption and emissions.

Waste Generation:

  • The use of PVC flex banners, hoardings, and disposable items during campaigns contributes to waste generation and further environmental degradation.

Successful Examples of Eco-friendly Electoral Initiatives

Kerala’s Green Campaign:
  • Initiative: During the 2019 general elections, Kerala’s State Election Commission advocated for avoiding single-use plastic materials in campaign activities.
Actions Taken:
  • Ban on Non-Biodegradable Materials: The Kerala High Court imposed a ban on flex and non-biodegradable campaign materials.
  • Promotion of Sustainable Alternatives: Political parties utilized wall graffiti and paper posters as eco-friendly alternatives.
  • Awareness and Training: Government bodies collaborated with district administrations to conduct training sessions for election workers, promoting environmentally conscious behavior.
Goa’s Artisan-Crafted Eco-Friendly Booths:
  • Initiative: For the 2022 Assembly elections, the Goa State Biodiversity Board introduced eco-friendly election booths.
Actions Taken:
  • Use of Biodegradable Materials: Booths were constructed using biodegradable materials crafted by local artisans from Sattari and Ponda.
  • Support for Local Artisans: This initiative not only promoted eco-friendliness but also supported local artisan communities.
Sri Lanka’s Carbon-Sensitive Campaign:
  • Initiative: In 2019, Sri Lanka’s Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party launched a carbon-sensitive and environmentally friendly election campaign.
Actions Taken:
  • Carbon Footprint Measurement: Carbon emissions from campaign activities were meticulously measured, including those from vehicles and electricity usage.
  • Offsetting Emissions: To offset emissions, public tree planting initiatives were organized across each district, promoting forest cover and environmental awareness.
Estonia’s Digital Voting Revolution
  • Initiative: Estonia pioneered digital voting as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional paper-based voting methods.
Actions Taken:
  • Implementation of Digital Voting: Estonia’s approach encouraged voter participation while minimizing environmental impact.
  • Security Measures: Robust security measures were implemented to ensure the integrity and safety of digital voting, demonstrating that digital voting can be both eco-friendly and voter-friendly.

Challenges in Adoption of Green Elections

Technological Proficiency and Training:

  • Challenge: Election officials must be proficient in operating and troubleshooting new technologies.
  • Solution: Adequate training programs are essential to bridge the knowledge gap among election officials.

Access and Inclusivity:

  • Challenge: Ensuring equitable access to technology for all voters, including those in remote or underserved areas.
  • Solution: Addressing disparities in internet connectivity and promoting digital literacy are crucial steps towards inclusivity.

Financial Constraints:

  • Challenge: Implementing eco-friendly materials and advanced technology often requires significant upfront costs.
  • Solution: Emphasizing long-term benefits, such as reduced paper usage and streamlined processes, can help justify the investment.

Budget Allocation:

  • Challenge: Balancing funds for technology upgrades with other essential services within budget limitations.
  • Solution: Prioritizing modernization while maintaining fiscal responsibility is a delicate task that requires careful planning and allocation.

Cultural Inertia and Voter Behavior:

  • Challenge: Overcoming traditional views of voting as a physical civic duty and changing voter behavior towards accepting digital alternatives.
  • Solution: Public awareness campaigns highlighting the benefits and reliability of digital voting can help shift perceptions and encourage adoption.

Building Trust in Electronic Voting Systems:

  • Challenge: Addressing public skepticism about the security, privacy, and potential manipulation of electronic voting systems.
  • Solution: Ensuring transparency, implementing robust safeguards, and demonstrating the integrity of the voting process can help build trust among voters.

Security Concerns:

  • Challenge: Ensuring voting systems are secure from cyber threats to maintain public trust and the integrity of elections.
  • Solution: Implementing rigorous security protocols without compromising the user-friendly interface is essential. Continuous monitoring and updating of security measures are also crucial.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

According to the latest data on international arms transfers from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India has emerged as the world’s leading arms importer during the period from 2019 to 2023. This marks a significant increase, with India’s imports rising by 4.7% compared to the previous five-year period from 2014 to 2018.

Relevance:

GS III: Internal Security

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of Recent SIPRI Data
  2. Recent Indian Government Initiatives to Reduce Arms Imports
  3. About SIPRI

Key Highlights of Recent SIPRI Data

Arms Importers:
  • Asia and Oceania/Middle East Dominance: Nine of the top 10 arms importers in 2019–23 were located in Asia and Oceania or the Middle East, with India, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar leading the list.
  • Ukraine’s Rise: Ukraine emerged as the 4th-largest arms importer globally during this period.
Arms Exporters:
  • US Dominance: The United States remained the largest arms supplier globally, experiencing a 17% growth in arms exports between 2014–18 and 2019–23.
  • France’s Ascendancy: France became the world’s second-largest arms supplier.
  • Europe’s Contribution: Europe accounted for one-third of global arms exports, showcasing its strong military-industrial capacity.
  • Russia’s Decline: Russia saw a significant decline in arms exports, decreasing by 53%.
India’s Arms Import Dynamics:
  • Shift from Russia: Although Russia remained India’s primary arms supplier, its share dropped to 36%, marking a departure from the historical trend where Russian deliveries dominated.
  • Diversification Strategy: India is increasingly diversifying its arms imports by turning to Western countries like France and the USA and boosting its domestic defence industry.

Recent Indian Government Initiatives to Reduce Arms Imports

Budget Allocation:

  • Increased Capital Expenditure: The Defense Ministry received ₹6.2 lakh crore in the Interim Budget 2024-25, with ₹1.72 lakh crore allocated for capital expenditure, reflecting a 5.78% increase from the previous year.

Indigenisation Initiatives:

  • Positive Indigenisation Lists: The Department of Military Affairs released the 5th Positive Indigenisation List, encompassing 98 items to bolster domestic manufacturing in the defence sector.
  • Increased FDI Limits: The FDI limit in the defence sector was raised to 74% through the Automatic Route and up to 100% via the Government Route in 2020.

Defence Industrial Corridors:

  • Uttar Pradesh: Nodes established in Agra, Aligarh, Chitrakoot, Jhansi, Kanpur, and Lucknow.
  • Tamil Nadu: Nodes set up in Chennai, Coimbatore, Hosur, Salem, and Tiruchirappalli.

Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX):

  • Objective: To create an ecosystem for innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging various stakeholders and providing grants, funding, and R&D support.

SRIJAN Portal:

  • Purpose: A one-stop-shop for vendors to find opportunities for manufacturing defence equipment previously imported, enabling collaboration between DPSUs, government agencies, and Indian companies.

About SIPRI

  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an independent international think-tank institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  • It was established in 1966 at Stockholm (Sweden).
  • It provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Recently, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Canada based biotechnology company (Conlis Global) for licensing of an innovative and indigenously developed technology that promotes bone healing and regeneration.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Nano Hydroxyapatite-based Porous Composite Scaffolds: An Overview
  2. Bone Grafting: An Overview

Nano Hydroxyapatite-based Porous Composite Scaffolds: An Overview

  • Nano Hydroxyapatite-based Porous Composite Scaffolds are innovative biomaterials designed for bone regeneration. They are biodegradable, offering osteoinductive and osteopromotive properties that facilitate bone healing and growth.
Key Characteristics:
  • Biocompatibility: These scaffolds are highly biocompatible, ensuring optimal interaction between cells and the material. This feature promotes good cell-material interaction, particularly with osteoblast cells responsible for bone formation and remodelling.
  • Mechanical Strength: Despite being biodegradable, these scaffolds exhibit high mechanical strength, which is crucial for providing structural support during bone regeneration.
  • Osteoinductive and Osteopromotive Properties: These properties contribute to bone healing and growth, making the scaffolds effective in promoting tissue formation, mineralization, and rapid defect healing.
Applications:
  • Orthopaedic and Dental Implants: These scaffolds are commonly used in the development of orthopaedic and dental implants due to their biocompatibility and osteogenic properties.
  • Bone Graft Substitutes: They serve as effective substitutes for traditional bone grafts, promoting bone growth and regeneration in damaged or defective areas.
  • Coatings for Prosthetic Devices: Functionalized versions of these scaffolds can be used as coatings for prosthetic devices to enhance their biocompatibility and promote better integration with the host tissue.
  • Tissue Engineering Scaffolds: They are employed in tissue engineering applications to create 3D structures that support cell growth and differentiation, facilitating the formation of new tissues.
  • Large Bone Defects: Functionalized scaffolds can be used as fillers in large-size bone defects, ensuring connectivity, structural integrity, and proper oxygen and blood circulation within the defect site.

Bone Grafting: An Overview

Bone grafting is a surgical procedure used to repair and reconstruct bones that have been damaged due to disease or injury. In this procedure, transplanted bone from either the patient’s own body (autograft) or a donor (allograft) is used to stimulate bone healing and regeneration. Bone grafting is a versatile technique applicable to various parts of the body and can be performed using bone harvested from different sources, such as the hips, legs, or ribs.

Objectives and Advancements:
  • Overcoming Drawbacks of Existing Remedies: The primary goal of innovative bone grafting technologies is to address the limitations and complications associated with traditional bone grafting methods, which often involve risks of infection and immune-related issues.
  • Targeted Delivery of Therapeutic Agents: Modern bone grafting technologies aim to deliver bone-active molecules, antibiotics, or other drugs directly to the implant site, enhancing the healing process and reducing the risk of complications.
  • Biocompatibility and Bone Regeneration: Advanced bone grafting materials are designed to be biocompatible, promoting the regeneration of bone tissue by acting as carriers for bone-active biomolecules. This facilitates the repair of irregular bone defects and accelerates the healing process.
  • Versatility in Applications: These innovative grafting materials are not only suitable for reconstructing bone defects but also find applications in dental procedures, further expanding their utility and effectiveness.
Functionalized Scaffolds in Bone Grafting:
  • Enhanced Healing in Large Bone Defects: Functionalized scaffolds can be used as fillers in large bone defects without compromising structural integrity, oxygenation, or blood circulation. This promotes tissue formation, mineralization, and rapid defect healing.
  • Bone Substitutes: These advanced grafting materials serve as effective substitutes for traditional bone grafts, overcoming the limitations associated with autografts and allografts.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Since 2020, a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu, H5N1, has been rapidly spreading across the world, presenting an existential threat to birds and wildlife. As of December 2023, the virus has been detected in birds in over 80 countries, highlighting its widespread impact. In January 2024, the Executive Director of Health at the Wildlife Conservation Society revealed that H5N1 has not only infected over 150 wild and domestic avian species worldwide but also impacted dozens of mammalian species.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Bird Flu and H5N1: An Overview

Bird Flu and H5N1: An Overview

Bird Flu (Avian Influenza)
  • Definition: Bird flu, or avian flu, is an infectious viral disease primarily affecting poultry and certain wild bird species.
  • Variability: Multiple strains of the bird flu virus exist, circulating among over 100 bird species without significant harm.
Cause of Concern:
  • Transmission to Poultry: Occasionally, the virus transitions from wild birds to densely populated poultry farms, where it evolves rapidly, causing severe illness and death among birds.

H5N1 Bird Flu

  • H5N1 is a subtype of the influenza A virus, causing severe respiratory disease known as avian influenza in birds.

Classification:

  • Influenza A viruses are categorized by subtypes based on their surface proteins.
  • H5N1 refers to the hemagglutinin (H) subtype 5 and neuraminidase (N) subtype 1.

Human Transmission:

  • While human cases of H5N1 are rare, the mortality rate is alarmingly high at about 60%.
  • Human-to-human transmission is uncommon.
Origin and Circulation:

Origins: The current strain of H5N1 evolved from a 1996 outbreak on a goose farm in Guangdong, China.

Global Spread:

  • First appeared in Europe in 2020.
  • Rapidly spread to Africa and Asia.
  • Reached North America by late 2021.
  • Emerged in South America in fall 2022.
  • Reached mainland Antarctica in February 2024.
Reasons for Large-Scale Spread:

Climate Change:

  • Rising global temperatures may alter bird behavior, facilitating virus spread.

Sea Surface Temperatures:

  • Warmer sea temperatures affecting marine ecosystems could indirectly impact bird health and virus transmission.
Human Infection:

Transmission:

  • Humans typically contract H5N1 through close contact with infected birds or contaminated environments.
  • Human-to-human transmission is rare.
Cause of Concern:

Severity:

  • H5N1 infection in humans can lead to severe illness with a high mortality rate.

Potential Mutation:

  • If the H5N1 virus were to mutate and become easily transmissible among humans while maintaining its virulence, it could pose a significant public health risk.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has found that many countries are yet to fully implement its requirements aimed at preventing misuse of virtual assets and virtual asset service providers (VASPs).

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
  2. FATF Greylists
  3. FATF Blacklists

Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

  • The Financial Action Task Force (on Money Laundering) (FATF) is an intergovernmental organisation founded in 1989 on the initiative of the G7 to develop policies to combat money laundering.
  • In 2001, its mandate was expanded to include terrorism financing.
  • FATF is a “policy-making body” that works to generate the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms in these areas.
  • FATF monitors progress in implementing its Recommendations through “peer reviews” (“mutual evaluations”) of member countries.
  • Since 2000, FATF has maintained the FATF blacklist (formally called the “Call for action”) and the FATF greylist (formally called the “Other monitored jurisdictions”).
  • The objectives of FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

FATF Greylists

  • FATF greylist is officially referred to as Jurisdictions Under Increased Monitoring.
  • FATF grey list represent a much higher risk of money laundering and terrorism financing but have formally committed to working with the FATF to develop action plans that will address their AML/CFT deficiencies.
  • The countries on the grey list are subject to increased monitoring by the FATF, which either assesses them directly or uses FATF-style regional bodies (FSRBs) to report on the progress they are making towards their AML/CFT goals.
  • While grey-list classification is not as negative as the blacklist, countries on the list may still face economic sanctions from institutions like the IMF and the World Bank and experience adverse effects on trade.
  • Unlike the next level “blacklist”, greylisting carries no legal sanctions, but it attracts economic strictures and restricts a country’s access to international loans

FATF Blacklists

  • FATF Blacklists is Officially known as High-Risk Jurisdictions subject to a Call for Action.
  • FATF blacklist sets out the countries that are considered deficient in their anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism regulatory regimes.
  • The list is intended to serve not only as a way of negatively highlighting these countries on the world stage, but as a warning of the high money laundering and terror financing risk that they present.
  • It is extremely likely that blacklisted countries will be subject to economic sanctions and other prohibitive measures by FATF member states and other international organizations.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has spent only 20 percent of the environment protection charge and environmental compensation collected so far on mitigating air pollution in Delhi-NCR and protecting the environment.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB): An Overview

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB): An Overview

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is a statutory organization established in September 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • It was later entrusted with the responsibilities under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. CPCB operates under the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MOEFCC) and serves as the principal advisory body to the Central Government on matters related to water and air pollution control and environmental quality improvement.
Objectives and Functions:
  • Water Pollution Control: CPCB aims to promote cleanliness and prevent, control, and abate water pollution in streams, wells, and other water bodies across different states.
  • Air Pollution Control: It is responsible for improving air quality and preventing, controlling, or abating air pollution throughout the country.
  • Technical Services and Advisory Role: CPCB provides technical support to MOEFCC and advises the Central Government on environmental protection, pollution prevention, and control measures.
Standardization Activities:
  • Development of Standards: CPCB formulates national standards for ambient air quality, water quality criteria, emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from industries, and other related parameters.
  • Manuals, Codes, and Guidelines: CPCB prepares and publishes manuals, codes, and guidelines pertaining to sewage treatment, trade effluent disposal, stack gas cleaning devices, and other environmental management practices.
  • Comprehensive Industry Document Series (COINDS) and Minimal National Standards (MINAS): Under COINDS, CPCB formulates MINAS specific to various industries concerning effluent discharge, emissions, noise levels, and solid waste management. These standards serve as minimal benchmarks that State  Governments are required to adopt and enforce.
Key Standards Developed by CPCB:
  • National Ambient Air Quality Standards
  • Water Quality Criteria for Different Sources
  • Emission Standards for Industries
  • Bio-Medical Waste Treatment and Disposal Guidelines
  • Common Hazardous Waste Incineration Guidelines
  • Vehicle Emission Norms
  • Auto Fuel Quality Standards
  • Emission and Noise Limits for Diesel Engines
  • Emission and Noise Limits for LPG and CNG Generator Sets

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The indigenous knowledge of the Konda Reddi tribe, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group inhabiting the Papikonda hill range in the Godavari region, has proven resourceful.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Konda Reddi Tribe: An Overview

  • The Konda Reddis are a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) predominantly residing along the banks of the river Godavari and in the hilly forest tracts of Godavari and Khammam districts in Andhra Pradesh, India. They have a distinct cultural identity, language, and socio-economic structure that sets them apart from other communities.
Language and Identity:
  • Mother Tongue: The Konda Reddis primarily speak Telugu in its purest and chaste form, albeit with a unique accent.
Social Structure:

Subdivisions and Marriage:

  • The Konda Reddi tribe is organized into exogamous septs to regulate matrimonial relations.
  • Certain septs are considered brother septs, and marriage alliances within these septs (agnate relations) are prohibited.
  • Marriage can be solemnized through negotiations, love and elopement, service, capture, or exchange.

Family Structure:

  • The family system is patriarchal and patrilocal.
  • While monogamy is the norm, polygamous families are not uncommon.
Religion and Beliefs:
  • Folk Hinduism: The Konda Reddis predominantly practice Folk Hinduism, characterized by the worship of local deities and adherence to community-level traditions and rituals.
Political Organization:

Kula Panchayat:

  • The Konda Reddis have their own traditional institution of social control known as the ‘Kula Panchayat’.

Village Headman (Pedda Kapu):

  • Each village is governed by a traditional headman known as the ‘Pedda Kapu’, who also serves as the village priest (Pujari) for the local deities.
  • The position of the headman is hereditary, passed down through generations.
Livelihood and Economy:
  • Shifting Cultivation:
    • The Konda Reddis primarily practice shifting cultivation and rely heavily on forest resources for their sustenance.
  • Forest Produce:
    • They collect and sell non-timber forest products such as tamarind, adda leaves, myrobolan, and broomsticks to supplement their income.
  • Agriculture:
    • Jowar is the staple food crop cultivated by the Konda Reddis.

Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG): Characteristics and Government Initiatives

Vulnerability Within Tribal Groups:

  • PVTGs are identified as the more vulnerable segments among tribal communities, facing distinct challenges that require special attention.

Resource Allocation Disparities:

  • As more developed and assertive tribal groups often receive a significant share of tribal development funds, PVTGs face the need for dedicated resources to address their unique developmental requirements.

Declaration and Recommendation:

  • In 1975, the Government of India, based on the recommendation of the Dhebar Commission, declared 52 tribal groups as PVTGs.

Current Status:

  • Presently, there are 75 PVTGs out of the total 705 Scheduled Tribes in India, spread across 18 states and one Union Territory according to the 2011 census.

Characteristics of PVTGs:

  • Population: Stagnant or declining
  • Technology: Predominantly pre-agricultural
  • Literacy Level: Extremely low
  • Economy: Operates at a subsistence level

Government Scheme for PVTGs:

  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs oversees the ‘Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)’ scheme.
  • This Centrally Sponsored Scheme provides 100% Central assistance to 18 states and the Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Objective of the Scheme:

  • The scheme aims at comprehensive socio-economic development for PVTGs while preserving their distinct culture and heritage.

Implementation and Projects:

  • State Governments, as part of the scheme, undertake projects tailored to sectors such as education, health, and livelihoods specifically designed for the holistic development of PVTGs.

-Source: The Hindu


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