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Current Affairs 03 April 2024

  1. Reserve Bank of India
  2. Supreme Court’s Warning on Court-Ordered Counseling for LGBTQ+ Individuals
  3. India Leads Global Internet Blackouts for Fifth Consecutive Year
  4. Vaikom Satyagraha
  5. Bridge Fuel
  6. Leap Second
  7. Digital India Trust Agency


Context:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a ceremony to mark 90 years of the Reserve Bank of India in Mumbai.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. News Summary: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Addresses RBI@90 Ceremony
  2. About Reserve Bank of India (RBI)
  3. Journey of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)

News Summary: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Addresses RBI@90 Ceremony

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke at the opening ceremony of RBI@90, commemorating 90 years of the Reserve Bank of India in Mumbai.
  • PM Modi acknowledged RBI’s significant milestone, highlighting its presence during both pre- and post-independence periods and its global reputation for professionalism and commitment.
  • He emphasized the upcoming decade’s importance for India’s rapid growth, focusing on trust, stability, and achieving a ‘Viksit Bharat’ (Developed India).
  • Despite financial discussions often being laden with complex jargon, PM Modi stressed that RBI’s actions directly impact the lives of everyday citizens.
  • Clarity on targets for the next decade was underscored by the Prime Minister.
  • PM Modi highlighted the shift towards a cashless economy and the promotion of digital transactions, emphasizing the need for financial inclusion and empowerment.
  • With India being the world’s youngest nation, the Prime Minister noted RBI’s crucial role in realizing youth aspirations.
  • Lastly, PM Modi stressed the necessity of a robust banking industry to support the nation’s projects with adequate funding.

About Reserve Bank of India (RBI)

Overview:

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) serves as India’s central bank and regulatory authority, overseeing the Indian banking system.
  • Established in 1934 under the Reserve Bank of India Act, it was formed based on the recommendations of the 1926 Hilton Young Commission.
  • Initially privately owned, it was nationalized in 1949 and is now fully owned by the Government of India’s Ministry of Finance.

Composition:

  • The central board of directors guides the RBI, comprising:
    • One Governor
    • Four Deputy Governors
    • Two Finance Ministry Representatives (usually Economic Affairs and Financial Services Secretaries)
    • Ten government-nominated Directors
    • Four Directors from local boards representing Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Delhi.
  • Each local board consists of five members, advocating regional and co-operative/indigenous bank interests.
  • Sir Osborne Arkell Smith was the inaugural Governor, with Sir C D Deshmukh being the first Indian to hold the position.
Primary Functions of the RBI:

Monetary Authority:

  • Develops, implements, and monitors monetary policy with the aim of maintaining price stability and supporting growth.

Regulator and Supervisor of the Financial System:

  • Sets the framework for banking operations, ensuring public confidence, protecting depositors’ interests, and providing cost-effective banking services.

Manager of Foreign Exchange:

  • Administers the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, facilitating external trade, payments, and orderly foreign exchange market development in India.

Issuer of Currency:

  • Manages currency issuance, exchange, and destruction, as well as circulating coins minted by the Government of India, ensuring adequate and quality supply to the public.

Developmental Role:

  • Undertakes promotional functions to support national objectives.

Regulator and Supervisor of Payment and Settlement Systems:

  • Introduces and enhances safe and efficient payment systems, aiming to maintain public confidence.

Related Functions:

  • Acts as a banker to the Government, offering merchant banking services to both central and state governments, and manages banking accounts for all scheduled banks.

Journey of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)

Establishment (1934):

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was established on April 1, 1935, under the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934. It began its operations as India’s central banking institution in Kolkata.

Initial Years:

  • Sir Osborne Smith, an Australian banker, became the first Governor of RBI.
  • The RBI started with the dual role of managing the currency of India and serving as a banker to the government.

Post-Independence Period (1947):

  • India gained independence in 1947, and the RBI played a pivotal role in formulating monetary and credit policies to stabilize the country’s economy.

Nationalization (1949):

  • In 1949, the RBI was nationalized, making it fully owned by the Government of India. This move aimed to ensure greater financial stability and control over monetary policy.

Monetary Policy and Regulation:

  • Over the decades, the RBI has evolved as the primary monetary authority, formulating and implementing monetary policies to control inflation, support economic growth, and maintain financial stability.
  • The RBI has also taken on a regulatory role, supervising and regulating banks and other financial institutions to ensure the health and stability of the financial system.

Financial Sector Reforms (1990s):

  • The 1990s witnessed significant financial sector reforms in India, and the RBI played a crucial role in liberalizing and modernizing the banking and financial sector to integrate with global markets.

Adoption of Inflation Targeting (2010s):

  • In the 2010s, the RBI adopted inflation targeting as a primary objective of monetary policy, aiming to maintain consumer price inflation within a specified range to support sustainable economic growth.

Digital Transformation and Innovation:

  • With the advent of technology and digital banking, the RBI has been proactive in promoting digital payments, enhancing financial inclusion, and fostering innovation in the financial sector while ensuring cybersecurity and consumer protection.

Current Role and Challenges:

  • Today, the RBI continues to play a pivotal role in steering India’s monetary and financial system, addressing challenges posed by global economic uncertainties, financial market volatilities, and domestic macroeconomic imbalances.

-Source: The Economic Times



Context:

The Supreme Court (SC) cautions judges against using court-mandated counseling to influence LGBTQ+ individuals to reject their sexual orientation and identity.

  • The warning emphasizes the inappropriate nature of attempting to change someone’s identity and sexual orientation through counseling, especially when they are facing distress or separation from family due to their LGBTQ+ status.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Status of LGBTQIA+ Rights and Recognition in India
  2. Major Challenges Faced by LGBTQIA+ in India

Status of LGBTQIA+ Rights and Recognition in India

Definition of LGBTQIA+:
  • LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual.
  • The “+” symbolizes other identities that are continually being recognized, such as non-binary and pansexual.
Historical Overview:
  • Colonial Era and Stigma (Pre-1990s):
    • 1861: Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” posing a significant obstacle to LGBTQIA+ rights.
  • Early Recognition and Activism (1990s):
    • 1981: The inaugural All-India Hijra Conference.
    • 1991: AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan (ABVA) releases “Less Than Gay,” advocating for legal reforms.
  • Landmark Cases and Setbacks (2000s):
    • 2001: Naz Foundation initiates a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against Section 377.
    • 2009: Delhi High Court ruling in Naz Foundation vs Govt of NCT of Delhi decriminalizes consensual homosexual acts.
    • 2013: Supreme Court overturns the Delhi High Court’s decision, reinstating Section 377.
  • Recent Advancements and Ongoing Struggle (2010s-Present):
    • 2014: Supreme Court recognizes transgender individuals as a “third gender” in the NALSA judgement.
    • 2018: Section 377 is struck down by the Supreme Court, decriminalizing same-sex relationships in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India.
    • 2019: Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 is enacted, offering legal recognition and prohibiting discrimination.
    • 2020: Uttarakhand High Court affirms legal protection for same-sex live-in relationships.
    • 2021: Bombay High Court upholds a petitioner’s right to self-identify gender in Village Panchayat elections.
    • 2022: Supreme Court broadens the family definition to encompass same-sex couples and queer relationships.
    • 2023: Supreme Court Constitution Bench rejects petitions to legalize same-sex marriage, emphasizing that legislative changes are the prerogative of Parliament and state legislatures.
      • SC ruled that it does not have the authority to modify the Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954 by either removing or adding provisions to include same-sex individuals.

Major Challenges Faced by LGBTQIA+ in India

Societal Attitudes and Stigma:

  • Deep-seated societal biases against LGBTQIA+ individuals are prevalent in various regions of India.
  • These prejudices manifest as harassment, bullying, and violence, particularly in educational and professional settings, impacting the mental and emotional health of LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Family Rejection and Discrimination:

  • LGBTQIA+ individuals frequently encounter rejection and discrimination within their families.
  • Such familial rejection can result in strained relationships, homelessness, and a lack of essential support networks.

Barriers to Healthcare Access:

  • LGBTQIA+ individuals face challenges in accessing healthcare services due to discrimination from healthcare providers.
  • There is a scarcity of LGBTQIA+-friendly healthcare facilities, and they often struggle to obtain appropriate sexual health-related medical care.

Limited Legal Recognition and Protections:

  • While transgender rights have seen progress, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals lack adequate legal recognition and protections.
  • Legal hurdles persist concerning marriage, adoption, inheritance, and other civil rights for these groups.

Intersectional Discrimination:

  • LGBTQIA+ individuals belonging to marginalized communities, such as Dalits, tribal groups, religious minorities, or people with disabilities, face multiple layers of discrimination due to their intersecting identities.

Manipulative Counseling Practices:

  • The use of conversion therapy and pathologizing LGBTQIA+ identities exacerbates their challenges.
  • Such counseling practices perpetuate harmful stereotypes, undermine authenticity, and intensify internalized stigma and distress among LGBTQIA+ individuals.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

For five consecutive years, India has topped the world in implementing internet bans, accounting for over 60% of all reported blackouts between 2016 and 2022. While these state-imposed internet shutdowns often cite reasons of national security and threats to public order, they have faced criticism from rights groups for restricting freedom of expression and access to information.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Internet Shutdowns in India
  2. Criticism of the Indian Government

Internet Shutdowns in India

Frequency and Duration:

  • Between 2014 and 2023, the Indian government enforced 780 internet shutdowns, as reported by the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC).
  • In 2023 alone, India experienced internet shutdowns totaling over 7,000 hours.

Economic Impact:

  • Internet disruptions in India contributed to over 70% of the global economic losses in 2020.

Trigger Events:

  • Shutdowns escalated during significant events such as protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (2019), the abrogation of Article 370 (2019), and the introduction of Farm Bills (2020).

Regional Data:

  • J&K witnessed the highest number of shutdowns, totaling 433, in the last 12 years.
  • The longest shutdown in 2023 occurred in Manipur from May to December due to ethnic clashes.
  • As of February 15, Haryana experienced active internet shutdowns amid ongoing farmers’ protests.

Comparing India’s Position with Global Trends

Global Internet Freedom:

  • Freedom House reports a decline in global internet freedom for the 13th consecutive year, with deteriorating human rights online in 29 countries.

Nature of Shutdowns:

  • Most internet disruptions in India over the past decade were localized to specific districts, cities, and villages.
  • Globally, protests are the primary cause of internet shutdowns, followed by information control and political instability.
Laws Invoked for Internet Suspension

Indian Telegraph Act:

  • States and Union Territories (UTs) can enforce internet shutdowns under the conditions of a “public emergency” or in the interest of “public safety”.
  • The Act, however, lacks clear definitions of what constitutes an emergency or safety issue.

Content Censorship:

  • Between 2015 and 2022, the majority of content censorship occurred under Section 69A of the IT Act by the Ministry of Electronics and IT and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • URLs were frequently blocked due to associations with organizations banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Criticism of the Indian Government

Use of British-Era Laws:

  • The Union government utilized outdated British-era laws to suspend mobile internet during the Punjab farmers’ protests in Delhi.

Failure to Meet International Standards:

  • Activists argue that India did not adhere to the ‘three-part test’ when imposing internet blackouts in J&K and Manipur.
  • According to international law, countries must ensure that any action to block content or impose coercive measures aligns with:
    • Legality (provided for by law)
    • Legitimate aim
    • Necessity and proportionality standards

Way Ahead for the Indian Government

Supreme Court’s Stance:

  • In the pivotal Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India case, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that internet shutdowns infringe upon the fundamental rights to freedom of expression.
    • The apex court declared that indefinite shutdowns are unconstitutional.

Transparency in Shutdown Orders:

  • Governments should publicize shutdown orders, a requirement that is frequently disregarded and poorly complied with by authorities.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, India commemorated the centenary of Vaikom satyagraha, a pivotal movement in India’s history that challenged untouchability and caste oppression.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Vaikom Satyagraha: An Overview

Vaikom Satyagraha: An Overview

Location and Duration:

  • Vaikom Satyagraha was a nonviolent protest that occurred in Vaikom, Travancore (present-day Kerala) from March 30, 1924, to November 23, 1925.

Purpose and Trigger:

  • The movement aimed to challenge and eradicate the deeply rooted practices of untouchability and caste discrimination in Indian society.
  • The agitation began due to the ban on people from oppressed classes, particularly the Ezhavas, from using the roads near the Vaikom Mahadeva temple.

Negotiations with Authorities:

  • Leaders attempted to negotiate with the Maharani Regent of Travancore to open the temple roads to everyone.

Significance in Indian History:

  • Vaikom Satyagraha was the pioneering temple entry movement in India, paving the way for similar movements nationwide.
  • It emerged alongside the broader nationalist movement, emphasizing both social reform and political aspirations.

Key Figures:

  • The movement was spearheaded by notable leaders like Ezhava leader T K Madhavan, K.P. Kesava Menon, and K. Kelappan.
  • E.V. Ramasamy, also known as Periyar or Thanthai Periyar, played a pivotal role by mobilizing volunteers, delivering speeches, and enduring imprisonment, earning the title ‘Vaikom Veerar’.
  • Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Vaikom in March 1925 strengthened the movement as he engaged in discussions with leaders from various caste groups.

Strategies and Methods:

  • Initially, the satyagraha focused on the temple’s surrounding roads’ accessibility to all castes.
  • The movement’s leaders adopted nonviolent protest methods, drawing inspiration from Gandhian principles.

Outcomes:

  • The Vaikom Satyagraha resulted in significant reforms, with three out of the four roads near the temple being opened to people of all castes.

Aftermath and Legacy:

  • In November 1936, the Maharaja of Travancore issued the Temple Entry Proclamation, lifting the age-old ban on marginalized castes’ entry into Travancore temples.
  • The movement’s legacy is multifaceted, with some viewing it as a Hindu reformist movement and others as a struggle against caste-based discrimination.
  • To commemorate its significance, memorials like the Vaikom Satyagraha Memorial Museum and Periyar’s Memorial were established.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Natural gas has been called a ‘bridge fuel’ for countries looking to transition away from coal and oil dependency, and as they pursue a pathway towards renewables and electrification.

Relevance:

GS III: Energy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding Bridge Fuel
  2. Key Aspects of Natural Gas
  3. Applications and Uses of Natural Gas

Understanding Bridge Fuel

Definition:

  • A bridge fuel is a transitional fuel that powers society with minimal environmental impact while transitioning to cleaner, renewable energy sources.
  • The objective is to replace current fossil fuel-dependent energy sources with renewable energy alternatives that are free from greenhouse gas emissions.

Debate and Considerations:

  • The duration of the bridge and the type of energy source used are subjects of ongoing debate.
  • Natural gas is often considered a bridge fuel due to its lower greenhouse gas emissions during combustion.
  • Factors like enhancing national energy independence and reducing pollution-related costs are also considered when evaluating a bridge fuel.

Key Aspects of Natural Gas

Nature and Composition:

  • Natural gas is a fossil fuel and, like all fossil fuels, is nonrenewable.
  • It is primarily a mixture of hydrocarbon gases, with 70-90% being methane (CH4), along with ethane (C2 H6) and propane (C3 H8).
  • Possible impurities can include carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and nitrogen (N).

Formation Process:

  • Natural gas was formed millions to hundreds of millions of years ago when organic remains, such as plants and animals, accumulated in thick layers on the earth’s surface and ocean floors, often mixed with sand, silt, and calcium carbonate.
  • Over time, these organic layers were buried and subjected to pressure and heat, transforming some into coal, others into oil (petroleum), and some into natural gas.
  • Natural gas reserves are found deep within the earth, often near other hydrocarbon deposits like coal and crude oil.

Applications and Uses of Natural Gas

Processing and Utilization:

  • Natural gas is not used in its raw form; it undergoes processing to produce cleaner fuels.
  • During the processing of natural gas, various by-products like propane, ethane, butane, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen are extracted and can be utilized further.

Main Applications:

  • Natural gas is predominantly used for electricity generation and heating purposes.
  • Compressed natural gas (CNG) is utilized as a fuel for vehicles.
  • It serves as a fuel for boilers, air conditioners, and is essential in the production of fertilizers, particularly ammonia.

Role as a Bridge Fuel:

  • Natural gas is often termed a ‘bridge fuel’ as countries seek to transition from coal and oil dependence.
  • Recognized for its cleaner energy profile compared to other fossil fuels, especially coal, natural gas emits approximately 50% less CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to reduced climate impact.

-Source: Down To Earth



Context:

A recent study highlighted that due to factors like climate change and geological shifts, Earth’s changing rotation may prompt clocks to skip a second, potentially necessitating a “negative leap second” around 2029.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding Leap Second
  2. Exploring Negative Leap Second

Understanding Leap Second

Purpose of Leap Second:

  • Introduced to address the Earth’s long-term slowdown in rotation due to constant melting and refreezing of ice caps.
  • Added occasionally to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to align global clocks with Earth’s decreasing rotation speed.

History and Implementation:

  • The system of leap seconds was established in the early 1970s, with 27 positive leap seconds added to date.
  • UTC is based on a time scale from over 300 precise Atomic clocks worldwide, which remain accurate within one second over millions of years.

Comparison with Astronomical Time:

  • Universal Time (UT1) represents Earth’s rotation on its axis and determines a day’s length.
  • Earth’s rotation is inconsistent due to factors like moon’s gravitational forces and resulting ocean tides, causing UT1 to drift from UTC.
  • A leap second is added to UTC when the discrepancy between UTC and UT1 approaches 0.9 seconds, ensuring synchronization.

Timing of Leap Second Addition:

  • Leap seconds are typically inserted on either June 30 or December 31.

Exploring Negative Leap Second

Definition:

  • A negative leap second subtracts a second from clocks to maintain synchronization with Earth’s rotation.

Historical Context:

  • No negative leap seconds have been introduced to date, primarily because the Earth’s rotation has generally been slowing down over recent decades.

Monitoring and Decision-making:

  • The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) oversees Earth’s rotation monitoring and determines leap second adjustments.

Consideration of Negative Leap Second:

  • Due to Earth’s recent faster spin, timekeepers have considered introducing negative leap seconds, which would subtract seconds from clocks to align with Earth’s rotation.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The Reserve Bank of India is considering establishing a Digital India Trust Agency (DIGITA) to combat cyber fraud and illegal lending apps.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Digital India Trust Agency (DIGITA)
  2. Understanding Digital Lending

About Digital India Trust Agency (DIGITA)

Role and Responsibilities:

  • Tasked with preventing the emergence of illegal lending apps.
  • Facilitates the verification of digital lending applications and maintains a public register of these verified apps.

Verification System:

  • Apps verified by DIGITA will carry a “verified” tag.
  • Any app lacking this verification will be deemed unauthorized.

Significance:

  • Establishes a crucial checkpoint in combating online financial fraud.

Understanding Digital Lending

Definition:

  • Digital lending refers to a remote and automated lending process primarily driven by advanced digital technologies.

Process and Parties Involved:

  • Lending occurs through web platforms or mobile apps, leveraging technology across various stages such as customer acquisition, credit assessment, loan approval, disbursement, recovery, and customer service.
  • Typically involves three entities: a lender, a lending service provider (including digital lending platforms), and a borrower.

Products and Features:

  • Includes innovative financial products like Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL).
  • BNPL offers a financing option or short-term loan, allowing consumers to purchase products or avail services without immediate payment concerns.

-Source: Indian Express


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