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Current Affairs 01 May 2023

Contents:

  1. Deaths due to high level of Hydrogen Sulphide in air
  2. 100th Episode of Mann Ki Baat
  3. Centre blocks mobile messenger apps being used by the Terrorists
  4.  India becomes Europe’s largest supplier of refined fuels
  5. Challenging the Colonial-era Sedition law

Deaths Due To High Level Of Hydrogen Sulphide In Air


Context:

Eleven people died and four were taken ill on inhaling a toxic gas in Punjab. The gas has been identified as hydrogen sulphide.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Pollution and Environmental degradation), GS-II: International Relations (Internal Treaties and Agreements)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Introduction to Hazardous Chemicals
  2. What are neurotoxins?
  3. About Hydrogen Sulphide
  4. Highlights of the WHO report on Hazardous Chemicals
  5. International Conventions and Agreements regarding Chemicals

Introduction to Hazardous Chemicals

  • A hazardous chemical is a chemical that has properties with the potential to do harm to human or animal health, the environment, or capable of damaging property.
  • Hazardous chemicals are categorized as follows:
  • Flammable or explosive (e.g., petroleum, TNT, plastic explosives)
  • Irritating or corrosive to skin, lungs, and eyes (e.g., acids, alkali, paints, fumes)
  • Toxic chemicals (e.g., carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, cyanide, heavy metals).

What are neurotoxins?

  • Neurotoxins are poisonous substances which can directly affect the nervous system.
  • Neurotoxicity occurs when exposure to natural or man-made toxic substances alters the normal activity of the nervous system.
  • These substances can eventually disrupt or even kill neurons or nerve cells, which are important for transmitting and processing signals in the brain and other parts of the nervous system.
  • Methane, hydrogen sulphide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are common neurotoxic gases.

About Hydrogen Sulphide:

  • Hydrogen sulphide is part of the natural environment
  • It often occurs naturally in some environments (gas wells, sulfur springs, swamps, etc.).
  • It can also be associated with animal farms, industrial plants, sewers or sewage treatment plants.
  • Exposure to Hydrogrn Sulphide:
    • The release of hydrogen sulphide from a specific source does not always lead to human exposure.
    • People can only be exposed to the gas when they come into direct contact with it by breathing it in, eating or drinking something contaminated with it, or when it touches your skin.
  • Health effects of Hydrogen Sulphide:
    • Exposure to low concentrations of hydrogen sulphide may cause irritation to the eyes, nose, or throat.
    • It may also cause difficulty in breathing for some people with asthma.
    • Low concentrations of hydrogen sulphide may cause headaches, poor memory, tiredness, and balance problems.
    • Brief exposures to high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide (greater than 1000 ppm) can cause a loss of consciousness and even death in some cases.
    • However, in some individuals, there may be permanent or long-term effects such as headaches, poor attention span, poor memory, and poor motor function.

Highlights of the WHO report on Hazardous Chemicals

  • Deaths due to exposure to hazardous chemicals worldwide rose almost 30% in 2019 from what they were in 2016.
  • Two million people died due to exposure to hazardous chemicals in 2019 and around 5000 people died every day due to unintentional exposure to chemicals.
  • Lead Poisoning was responsible for nearly half of the deaths in 2019.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from occupational exposure to particulates (dust, fumes and gas) and cancers from occupational exposure to carcinogens (arsenic, asbestos and benzene), too accounted for a substantial share of the preventable deaths.
  • In 2019, 53 million disability-adjusted life-years were lost (Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) is the sum of the number of years of life lost due to premature death and a weighted measure of the years lived with disability due to a disease or injury.) This is an increase by over 19% since 2016.

International Conventions and Agreements regarding Chemicals

  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) on protecting human health and the environment from the harmful effects of POPs (i.e., toxic chemicals).
  • Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
  • Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.
  • The Minamata Convention on Mercury and protecting human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury and its compounds.

-Source: The Hindu, The Indian Express


100th Episode Of Mann Ki Baat


Context:

The Prime Minister of India addressed the 100th episode of his monthly Mann Ki Baat radio broadcast.

  • He emphasised the need for the preservation and promotion of education and culture which has been an ancient tradition of India

Relevance:

GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives), Prelims bits

About Mann Ki Baat:

  • It is a program broadcasted on the All India Radio through which the Prime Minister of India, addresses the citizens of India.
  • The program is India’s “first visually enriched radio programme
  • The programme was officially launched on 3 October 2014.
  • The main objective of the program is to engage with citizens on day-to-day governance issues.
  • The Radio was chosen as the medium of the program due to its wide reach and an estimated 90% of the total Indian population can be reached through the medium. 

 -Source: The Hindu


Centre Blocks Mobile Messenger Apps Being Used By The Terrorists


Context:

The Central government has recently blocked 14 mobile messenger applications being used by terror groups.

  • These applications were mostly being used by Over Ground Workers of different terrorist organisations based in Jammu and Kashmir to spread the message and to receive notifications from Pakistan.
  • They were also being used to further terror propaganda and incite youths in Jammu and Kashmir.

Relevance:

GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the IT Act?
  2. Section 69 of the IT Act

What is the IT Act?

  • The year 2000 saw the rise of IT Bill which it received assent of President and hence came to be the Information Technology (IT) act in which Cyber laws are contained.
  • The Aim of the Act was to provide legal infrastructure for e-commerce in India.
  • The Information Technology Act, 2000 also aims to provide for the legal framework so that legal sanctity is accorded to all electronic records and other activities carried out by electronic means. The Act states that unless otherwise agreed, an acceptance of contract may be expressed by electronic means of communication and the same shall have legal validity and enforceability.
  • In India, the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, as amended from time to time, governs all activities related to the use of computer resources.
  • It covers all ‘intermediaries’ who play a role in the use of computer resources and electronic records.
  • The role of the intermediaries has been spelt out in separate rules framed for the purpose in 2011- The Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011.

Amendment to the IT Acth4

  • The Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 – An act to amend the IT Act 2000 received the assent of the President on 5th February 2009.

It dealt with various changes such as:h4

  • Data Protection –with no specific reference to Data Protection in 2000 Act, the ITA 2008 introduced two sections addressing Data Protection, Section 43A (Compensation for failure to protect data), and Section 72A (Punishment for disclosure of information in breach of lawful contract.
  • Information Preservation – Section 67C refers to the Preservation and Retention of Information by Intermediaries. According to Central Government, any intermediary who intentionally or knowingly contravenes the provisions shall be punished with an imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years and shall not be liable to fine.
  • Section 69 gives power to issue directions for interception or monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer source.
    • Section 69B authorizes to monitor and collect traffic data or information through any computer resource for Cyber security.

Section 69 of the IT Act

  • It confers on the Central and State governments the power to issue directions “to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource”.
  • The grounds on which these powers may be exercised are:
  • In the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state.
  • Friendly relations with foreign states.
  • Public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to these.
  • For investigating any offence.

Procedure for Blocking Apps

  • Powers to Block: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has been given the power to block access to information, similar to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, since 2009.
  • IT Rules: The powers of the MeitY are derived from the IT Act, and the procedure for blocking access to information is explained in the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009 or the IT Rules, 2009.
  • Review Committees: The IT Rules include provisions for review committees, fair hearing opportunities, strict confidentiality, and record maintenance by designated officers.
  • Pre-decisional Hearings: However, there have been no recorded instances of the MeitY providing individuals with pre-decisional hearings.

India Becomes Europe’s Largest Supplier Of Refined Fuels


Context:

As per the latest data, India has become Europe’s largest supplier of refined fuels this month.

Relevance:

GS Paper-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilisation of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key points
  2. What Does India’s Rising Petroleum Product Exports to the EU Mean?
  3. Petroleum products: What are they?

Key points:

  • Europe’s reliance of Indian crude oil has significantly increased since the ban on Russian oil.
  • According to an analysis of data from the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics, India’s exports of petroleum products to the EU increased by 20.4% year over year in April to January, reaching 11.6 million tonnes (DGCIS).
  • India’s refined product exports to the region increased sequentially for five consecutive months prior to the EU’s ban on Russian petroleum products starting on February 5, reaching 1.90 million tonnes in January, the highest monthly volume in the first ten months of the current fiscal.
  • Compared to the same period last year, the EU accounted for nearly 15% of India’s 79 million tonnes of total petroleum product exports.
  • Its share of India’s petroleum product exports increased from 16 to nearly 22 percent in the four months prior to the EU’s ban on Russian refined products.

What Does India’s Rising Petroleum Product Exports to the EU Mean?

  • From the standpoint of the world’s oil markets, suppliers like India assist in preserving a demand-supply balance and averting sharp price fluctuations.
  • Countries like India, a major oil refiner, are helping to close the gap by purchasing Russian oil on the one hand and increasing the supply of refined products to the EU on the other. The EU does not want to buy crude as well as refined fuels and products from Russia.
  • India is a significant refiner, with a capacity of about 250 million tonnes per year.
  • Despite being one of the biggest consumers of crude oil, India is a net exporter of petroleum products because its refining capacity exceeds domestic demand.
  • The West’s punitive action against Russia’s oil and gas sector benefits Indian refiners, especially export-oriented private sector players Reliance Industries and Nayara Energy, because it enables them to buy Russian oil at a discount while earning robust margins on product supplies to Europe. As a result, even though the EU avoids purchasing oil and petroleum products directly from Moscow, some of it seems to be making its way to European co
  • Under the current conditions, India is now playing a more significant role in the supply map for refined products and crude oil around the world.

Petroleum products: What are they?

  • Materials derived from crude oil (petroleum) as it is processed in oil refineries are known as petroleum products.
  • Petroleum products are intricate mixtures as opposed to petrochemicals, which are a collection of clearly defined, typically pure organic compounds.
  • The vast majority of oil is transformed into petroleum products, which include a variety of fuel classes.
  • The majority of oil products, such as different types of fuel oil and gasoline, are used as “energy carriers,” or transportation fuels.
  • These fuels include gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, heating oil, and heavier fuel oils, or they can be blended to produce those fuels.
  • Heavier (less volatile) fractions can also be used to create heavy oils such as lubricating, tar, paraffin wax, and asphalt.
  • Additional chemicals are produced by refineries, some of which are used in chemical reactions to create plastics and other practical materials.
  • Since sulfur-containing molecules in petroleum frequently make up a small percentage of the molecules, elemental sulphur is frequently produced as a petroleum product.
  • Hydrogen and carbon can both be produced as petroleum products in the form of petroleum coke.

-Source: The Hindu


Challenging The Colonial-era Sedition Law


Context:

Recently, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that it was at an advanced consultation stage on re-examining the colonial era sedition law.

  • A batch of pleas were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the sedition law. It further questioned the constitutional validity of the penal provision.
  • On May 11, 2022, the apex court had put on hold the colonial-era penal law on sedition till an “appropriate” government forum re-examines it.

Relevance:

GS III: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Sedition?
  2. About Sedition law
  3. Criticism of Sedition
  4. The Problem of Sedition being constitutional

What is Sedition?

  • Sedition, which falls under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, is defined as any action that brings or attempts to bring hatred or contempt towards the government of India and has been illegal in India since 1870.

Historical background of Sedition laws

  • Sedition as a concept comes from Elizabethan England, where if you criticised the king and were fomenting a rebellion, it was a crime against the state.
  • When they ruled India, the British feared Wahhabi rebellion. They brought the [sedition] law in, and it was used against our freedom fighters as well.
  • We must remember that both Mahatma Gandhi and [Bal Gangadhar] Tilak were tried under this law and sentenced.
  • Government didn’t remove it because every administrator has this thought that dissent is okay, but beyond a certain point it gets dangerous and an administration must have the means to control it.
  • Previously policemen were much more independent. But since Indian independence, the independence of the police has also been severely compromised. So, any local leader can almost bully a policeman into registering a case.

About Sedition law

  • The law was originally drafted by Thomas Macaulay. Since its introduction in 1870, meaning of the term, as well as its ambit, has changed significantly.
  • Sedition is a cognisable, non-compoundable, and non-bailable offence, under which sentencing can be between three years to imprisonment for life.

About Section 124A of Indian Penal Code (IPC)

  • The Indian Penal Code in Section 124A lays down the offence:
  • “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”
  • A person charged under this law can’t apply for a government job. They have to live without their passport and must present themselves in the court as and when required.

Criticism of Sedition

  • Colonial Era law: It is a colonial relic and a preventive provision that should only be read as an emergency measure.
  • Right to Freedom of expression: Use of Section 124A by the government might go beyond the reasonable restrictions provided under fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression as per Article 19 of the Constitution.
  • Democratic foundation: Dissent and criticism of the government are essential ingredients of robust public debate in a vibrant democracy and therefore, should not be constructed as sedition. The sedition law is being misused as a tool to persecute political dissent.
  • Lower Conviction Rate: Though police are charging more people with sedition, few cases actually result in a conviction. Since 2016, only four sedition cases have seen a conviction in court which indicates that sedition as an offence has no solid legal grounding in India.
  • Vague provision of sedition laws: The terms used under Section 124A like ‘disaffection’ are vague and subject to different interpretation to the whims and fancies of the investigating officers.
  • Other legal measure for offences against the state: Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (1967), have provisions that penalize “disrupting the public order” or “overthrowing the government with violence and illegal means”. These are sufficient for protecting the national integrity. o Similarly, the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act is also there for offences against the state.
  • Perception of law: Globally, sedition is increasingly viewed as a draconian law and was revoked in the United Kingdom in 2010. In Australia, following the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) the term sedition was removed.

The Problem of Sedition being constitutional

  • The law of sedition was not struck down by the Supreme Court in 1962 as unconstitutional even though sedition, as defined in Section 124A of the IPC, clearly violates Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution which confers the Fundamental Right of freedom of speech and expression, the most valuable right of free citizens of a free country.
  • Further, this section does not get protection under Article 19(2) on the ground of reasonable restriction.
  • It may be mentioned in this context that sedition as a reasonable restriction, though included in the draft Article 19 was deleted when that Article was finally adopted by the Constituent Assembly. It clearly shows that the Constitution makers did not consider sedition as a reasonable restriction.
  • However, the Supreme Court was not swayed by the decision of the Constituent Assembly. It took advantage of the words ‘in the interest of public order’ used in Article 19(2) and held that the offence of sedition arises when seditious utterances can lead to disorder or violence.
  • This act of reading down Section 124A brought it clearly under Article 19(2) and saved the law of sedition. Otherwise, sedition would have had to be struck down as unconstitutional.

-Source: The Indian Express


 

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