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Current Affairs 05 July 2024

  1. Allahabad High Court’s Stance on Religious Conversions in India
  2. Swami Vivekananda
  3. Windfall tax
  4. Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC)
  5. ISRO’s Interest in Planetary Defence Mission
  6. Humid Heat
  7. Indian Gaur


Context:

The Allahabad High Court recently addressed the issue of religious conversions in India, emphasizing the potential demographic impact on the majority population. The court made these remarks while rejecting the bail application of an individual booked under the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021, and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code. This case highlights the court’s stance on the constitutional boundaries of religious propagation and the urgent need to curb unlawful conversion activities.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Fundamental Rights), GS-I: Indian Society

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The Allahabad High Court made several key observations regarding religious conversions
  2. Freedom of Religion in our Constitution
  3. What is Religious Conversion?
  4. Anti-Conversion laws in Indian States
  5. Why have the laws been criticised?
  6. Important Cases Regarding Marriage and Conversion of Religion

The Allahabad High Court made several key observations regarding religious conversions

  • Interpretation of Article 25: The court emphasized that Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion, allows for the propagation of religion but does not explicitly permit conversions.
  • Meaning of Propagation: It clarified that “propagation” refers to promoting a religion but does not include converting individuals from one religion to another.
  • Concerns on Demographic Shifts: The court expressed concerns that unchecked conversions could lead to demographic changes, potentially turning the majority population into a minority in India.
  • Focus on Vulnerable Groups: It highlighted rampant unlawful conversions targeting Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and economically disadvantaged individuals across Uttar Pradesh.
  • Recommendations: The court recommended immediate cessation of religious congregations where conversions are taking place to address these issues effectively.

Freedom of Religion in our Constitution

  • Right to freedom of faith is not a conferred right but a natural entitlement of every human being. In fact, the law does not assign it but it asserts, protect and insurers its entitlement. Indian Society has nourished and nurtured almost all the established religion of the world like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc. from its time immemorial.
  • Article 25: All persons are equally entitled to “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.” subject to public order, morality and health, and to the other fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
  • Article 26: gives every religious group a right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, manage its affairs, properties as per the law. This guarantee is available to only Citizens of India and not to aliens.
  • Article 27: This Article mandates that no citizen would be compelled by the state to pay any taxes for promotion or maintenance of particular religion or religious denomination.
  • Article 28: This Article mandates that NO religious instruction would be imparted in the state-funded educational institutions.

What is Religious Conversion?

  • Religious conversion has always been a very sensitive social issue not only because of the reasons that it has psychological concerns of religious faith but also because it has wider socio-legal and socio-political implications.
  • Religious conversion means adopting a new religion, a religion that is different from his previous religion or religion by his birth.
  • There are various reasons for which people convert to different religion:
    1. Conversion by free will or free choice
    2. Conversion due to change of beliefs
    3. Conversion for convenience
    4. Conversion due to marriage
    5. Conversion by force
Reasons for Religious Conversions
  • Religious Conversion is a multifaceted and multi-dimensional phenomenon. Indian society is a pluralist and heterogeneous society with the multiplicity of races, religions, cultures, castes and languages etc. Religious Conversion has always been a problematic issue in India.
  • The reasons for religious conversions in India can be–
    • Rigid Hindu caste system
    • Polygamy prevailing in Islam
    • To get rid of matrimonial ties.
    • To get reservation benefits.

Anti-Conversion laws in Indian States

  • To date, there have been no central legislations restricting or regulating religious conversions.
  • Further, in 2015, the Union Law Ministry stated that Parliament does not have the legislative competence to pass an anti-conversion legislation.
  • Apart from UP and Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh too, have also enacted similar laws.
    • In 1967-68, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh enacted local laws called the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act 1967 and the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantra Adhiniyam 1968. Chhattisgarh inherited the law when it was carved out of Madhya Pradesh.
    • The Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 1978 was enacted to prohibit the conversion from one religious faith to any other by use of force or inducement. As the state has not formulated rules, the law is yet to be implemented in the State.
    • The Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Ordinance was promulgated by the Governor on October 5, 2002 and subsequently adopted by the State Assembly. However, this law was repealed in 2004.
    • The Rajasthan Assembly passed an Act in 2006, however, the Presidential assent is still awaited.
    • The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020: The law makes conversion non-bailable with up to 10 years of jail time if undertaken unlawfully and requires that religious conversions for marriage in Uttar Pradesh to be approved by a district magistrate. The proposed law does not include any restriction on interfaith marriage.
    • The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021 was brought in line with several similar laws enacted in 2020 by BJP-ruled states, starting with Uttar Pradesh, to amend the 2003 Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act.The laws ostensibly seek to end conversion through unlawful means, specifically prohibit any conversion for marriage, even if it is with the consent of the individual except when prior sanction is obtained from the state.

Why have the laws been criticised?

  • The new anti-conversion laws shift the burden of proof of a lawful religious conversion from the converted to his/her partner.
  • They define “allurement” for religious conversion in vague, over-broad terms; prescribe different jail terms based on gender.
  • The new laws legitimise the intrusion of family and the society at large to oppose inter-faith marriages.
  • They also give powers to the state to conduct a police inquiry to verify the intentions of the parties to convert for the purposes of marriage.
  • Legal experts have pointed out that the laws interfere in an individual’s agency to marry a partner from a different faith and to choose to convert from one’s religion for that purpose.
  • Apart from being vague and sweeping, the laws also test the limits to which the state can interfere in the personal affairs of individuals.
  • The freedom to propagate one’s religion and the right to choose a partner are fundamental rights that the new anti-conversion laws impinge upon.

Important Cases Regarding Marriage and Conversion of Religion

  • Lata Singh Case 1994 – The apex court held that India is going through a “crucial transformational period” and the “Constitution will remain strong only if we accept the plurality and diversity of our culture”. Relatives disgruntled by the inter-religious marriage of a loved one could opt to “cut off social relations” rather than resort to violence or harassment.
  • Hadiya Judgement 2017 – Matters of dress and of food, of ideas and ideologies, of love and partnership are within the central aspects of identity. Neither the State nor the law can dictate a choice of partners or limit the free ability of every person to decide on these matters.
  • Soni Gerry case, 2018 – The SC warned judges from playing “super-guardians”, succumbing to “any kind of sentiment of the mother or the egotism of the father”.
  • Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case (Allahabad HC) 2020 – The right to choose a partner or live with a person of choice was part of a citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty (Article 21). It also held that earlier court rulings upholding the idea of religious conversion for marriage as unacceptable are not good in law.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

July 4 is the death anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, recognised as one of the greatest spiritual leaders.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Swami Vivekananda
  2. Vedantic Humanism
  3. His teachings

About Swami Vivekananda

  • The Swami Vivekananda ji’s original name was Narendranath.
  • He was born on 12th January, 1863 at Kolkata , the Swamiji’s Jayanti i.e. birth anniversary is celebrated as the “National Youth Day“. 
  • Spiritual primacy is the central theme of Vivekananda’s teachings, through which human beings can succeed in every sphere of their lives.
  • Nevertheless, he urges people, especially the youth, to never let go of reason.
  • Instead, he premises his philosophy, ideas and life work on the premise of reason.
  • The three instruments of knowledge that he propounded are instincts, reason, and inspiration.

Vedantic Humanism

  • Swami Vivekananda believed that there is only one Self in the universe. There is only one Existence. He saw the entire universe as a manifestation of the absolute One.
  • On the coexistence of various faiths, he believed religious acceptance, and not tolerance was important. He claimed that tolerance comes out of a superiority complex.
  • For Vivekananda, the most desirable path for self-realisation was the selfless service of man.
  • Some ways through which the essential unity of all human beings can be realised are unconditional love for all, judicious detachment, and expansion of self through service of fellow humans despite any sectarian difference, he believed.
  • He was an exponent of vedantic humanism.
  • He did not propagate a world-negating concept of spirituality, rather he said that each and every chore of your life should be done with divinity.
  • He articulated that external rituals of religion are of secondary importance but the spiritual essence of a religion should be preserved and accepted.

His teachings

Divinity within ourselves
  • “Infinite power is in the soul of man, whether he knows it or not. Its manifestation is only a question of being conscious of it. With the full consciousness of his infinite power and wisdom, the giant will rise to his feet.”
  • Swami Vivekananda asserted that each soul is potentially divine.
  • The goal of human beings should be to manifest this divinity within, which can be done by controlling nature, external and internal.
Karma Yoga
  • Swami Vivekananda, emphasising the importance of work, said that God can be attained through work.
  • He said that in every society there are people whose minds cannot be concentrated on the plane of thought alone.
  • He stressed that a lot of people fritter away a great amount of their energies because they are oblivious to the secret of work. The key to this secret lies in Karma Yoga, as it teaches how to employ to the maximum advantage all our energies in our work.
  • Karma-Yoga teaches how to work for work’s sake, unattached to the results.
  • A Karma Yogin works out of her nature as she feels it is the right thing for her to do and that is the sole objective of her work. “Whatever you do, let that be your worship for the time being,” he said.
Bhakti Yoga
  • Bhakti Yoga teaches that love is a vital element of all human beings.
  • It teaches how to love bereft of any ulterior motives.
  •  “All love is expansion, all selfishness is contraction. Love is therefore the only law of life. He who loves lives, he who is selfish is dying,” said Swami Vivekananda.
Raja Yoga
  • Raja Yoga opens up the psychological way to union with God.
  • This Yoga teaches that in order to acquire knowledge, we’d have to use a method called concentration.
  • Swami Vivekananda, to explain this Yoga, gives an example of a chemist who works in her laboratory, concentrating all the powers of her mind, bringing them into one focus, and throwing them onto the elements; the elements stand analysed and thus her knowledge comes.
  • “The more this power of concentration, the more knowledge is acquired. The stronger the power of concentration, the better will that thing be done.”
Faith in oneself
  • He emphasises that the ideal of faith in ourselves is of the greatest help to us as whatever “you think, that you will be. If you think yourselves weak, weak you will be; if you think yourselves strong, strong you will be.”
  • One has to know that all knowledge, power, purity, and freedom are in oneself.
  • Swami Vivekanand also urges people to not shy away from taking responsibility for their actions.
  • “We, as Vedantists, know for certain that there is no power in the universe to injure us unless we first injure ourselves. Let us blame none, let us blame our own karma. The effect is here and the cause is here too. We are to blame. Stand up, be bold, and take the blame on your own shoulders.”

Source: Indian Express



Context:

Recently, the Indian government has increased the windfall tax on domestically produced crude oil from Rs 3,250 per tonne to Rs 6,000 per tonne.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a windfall tax?
  2. Why are countries levying windfall taxes now?
  3. What are the issues with imposing such taxes?

What is a windfall tax?

  • Windfall taxes are designed to tax the profits a company derives from an external, sometimes unprecedented event — for instance, the energy price-rise as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
  • These are profits that cannot be attributed to something the firm actively did, like an investment strategy or an expansion of business.
    • The U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) defines a windfall as an “unearned, unanticipated gain in income through no additional effort or expense”.
  • Governments typically levy this as a one-off tax retrospectively over and above the normal rates of tax.
  • One area where such taxes have routinely been discussed is oil markets, where price fluctuation leads to volatile or erratic profits for the industry.
  • There have been varying rationales for governments worldwide to introduce windfall taxes, from redistribution of unexpected gains when high prices benefit producers at the expense of consumers, to funding social welfare schemes, and as a supplementary revenue stream for the government.

Why are countries levying windfall taxes now?

  • Prices of oil, gas, and coal have seen sharp increases since last year and in the first two quarters of the current year, although they have reduced recently.
  • Pandemic recovery and supply issues resulting from the Russia-Ukraine conflict shored up energy demands, which in turn have driven up global prices.
  • The rising prices meant huge and record profits for energy companies while resulting in hefty gas and electricity bills for households in major and smaller economies. Since the gains stemmed partly from external change, multiple analysts have called them windfall profits.

What are the issues with imposing such taxes?

Brew uncertainty in the market about future taxes:

  • Analysts say that companies are confident in investing in a sector if there is certainty and stability in a tax regime. Since windfall taxes are imposed retrospectively and are often influenced by unexpected events, they can brew uncertainty in the market about future taxes.
IMF’s Advice Note:
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which released an advice note on how windfall taxes need to be levied also said that taxes in response to price surges may suffer from design problems—given their expedient and political nature.
    • It added that “introducing a temporary windfall profit tax reduces future investment because prospective investors will internalise the likelihood of potential taxes when making investment decisions”.
CRS report:
  • There is another argument about what exactly constitutes true windfall profits; how can it be determined and what level of profit is normal or excessive.
  •  A CRS report, for instance, argues that if rapid increases in prices lead to higher profits, in one sense it can be called true windfalls as they are unforeseeable but on the other hand, companies may argue that it is the profit they earned as a reward for the industry’s risk-taking to provide the end user with the petroleum product.
Another issue is who should be taxed:
  • Only the big companies responsible for the bulk of high-priced sales or smaller companies as well— raising the question of whether producers with revenues or profits below a certain threshold should be exempt.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, India participated in the 86th session of the Executive Committee of Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Participation in the 86th Session of the Executive Committee (CCEXEC) of the CAC
  1. Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC)
  2. Codex Standards

Participation in the 86th Session of the Executive Committee (CCEXEC) of the CAC:

  • India, represented by the CEO of FSSAI, is actively engaged in the 86th session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s Executive Committee (CCEXEC) at the FAO Headquarters in Rome.
  • The CCEXEC plays a crucial role in assessing proposals for new initiatives and monitoring the advancement of standards development globally.
  • India strongly supported the progress of standards for various spices like small cardamom, turmeric, and vanilla during the session.
  • This effort holds particular significance for India, given its status as a major producer and exporter of these spices, aiming to enhance international trade efficiency.
  • India also advocated for the advancement of standards concerning vegetable oils, guidelines on controlling Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli, and the safe management of water in food production and processing.
  • Additionally, India championed the proposal to develop Codex guidelines on food safety considerations linked to the use of recycled materials in food packaging.
  • This initiative is pivotal in addressing global issues such as climate change, environmental conservation, and sustainable practices.
  • India shared insights into FSSAI’s guidelines on recycling post-consumer PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) for applications in food contact, contributing valuable perspectives to the session.

Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC)

  • The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is an international food standards organization established in May 1963, jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Its primary objective is to safeguard consumer health and promote equitable practices in food trade on a global scale.
  • The Agreement on Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) within the World Trade Organization (WTO) recognizes Codex standards, guidelines, and recommendations as the reference standards for international trade and resolving trade disputes.
  • Currently, the Codex Alimentarius Commission comprises 189 members, including 188 Member Countries and 1 Member Organization, which is the European Union.
  • India has been a member of the Codex Alimentarius Commission since 1964.

Codex Standards:

  • Codex standards encompass essential guidelines related to various aspects of food safety and quality.
  • These core Codex texts cover areas such as hygienic practices, labeling, contaminants, additives, inspection and certification procedures, nutrition, and residues of veterinary drugs and pesticides.
  • They are applied horizontally to a wide range of food products and categories.
  • In addition to these core standards, Codex also develops commodity standards tailored to specific food products, and there is an increasing focus on developing standards for broader food groups.
  • Regional Coordinating Committees develop standards applicable to their respective regions to ensure that regional needs and conditions are addressed within the Codex framework.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has expressed interest in participating in a planetary defence mission in space, in preparation for a close encounter between Earth and the Apophis asteroid on April 13, 2029. This was announced by ISRO Chairman S Somanath and senior scientists during an international workshop held in Bengaluru on Wednesday, marking Asteroid Day 2024.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Asteroid Day
  2. India’s Journey in Planetary Defence
  3. Conclusion

Asteroid Day

Asteroid Day, observed annually on June 30, commemorates the Tunguska event in 1908, when a massive air blast from an asteroid flattened 2,200 sq km of forest in Siberia, Russia. It serves to raise awareness about the potential threat asteroids pose and efforts to protect Earth from them.

India’s Journey in Planetary Defence

Observations of Apophis

  • In 2004, Indian observatories detected an asteroid approximately 340 meters in size.
  • They concluded that this asteroid, known as Apophis, poses a significant risk of impacting Earth.
  • Apophis orbits the Sun every 360 days, frequently coming close to Earth.
  • On April 13, 2029, Apophis will pass approximately 32,000 km from Earth, raising concerns about potential gravitational impacts that could affect Earth in 2036.

ISRO’s Plans for Apophis

  • ISRO is preparing to study Apophis during its close approach in 2029 to enhance planetary defence capabilities against potential impacts.
  • Collaboration with the Apophis asteroid mission, involving JAXA, ESA, and NASA, is being considered to leverage collective expertise and resources.

India’s Future in Planetary Defence

Opportunities

  • Asteroids present both threats and opportunities for scientific discovery, offering insights into the universe’s origins and potential clues to the origins of life on Earth.
  • India, equipped as a major spacefaring nation capable of complex missions, aims to:
    • Conduct asteroid missions,
    • Land on asteroids,
    • Potentially execute planetary defence actions to safeguard Earth.
  • Collaboration with nations like Japan’s JAXA, which has conducted asteroid missions and sample collection, is pivotal for advancing India’s capabilities.

Collaborative Efforts and Challenges

  • ISRO aims to contribute actively to the global planetary defence programme by collaborating with international space agencies.
  • However, funding constraints, exacerbated by prioritization of human space missions, pose challenges for initiating new asteroid mission projects.
Learning from NASA’s DART Mission
  • NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission demonstrated the feasibility of altering an asteroid’s trajectory through kinetic impact.
  • This mission highlights technological advancements in asteroid deflection strategies, crucial for mitigating potential asteroid threats.
Funding Challenges and Future Prospects
  • ISRO faces financial constraints amidst priorities like human space missions, impacting funding for new projects such as asteroid missions.
  • Despite challenges, ISRO remains committed to enhancing India’s capabilities in planetary defense, aiming to collaborate with global agencies and contribute significantly to safeguarding Earth.
India’s Role in Planetary Defense
  • India, with its advanced space capabilities, aims to lead complex missions, including potential asteroid landings and planetary defense actions.
  • Collaboration with international agencies like JAXA and others, who have expertise in asteroid missions and sample collection, is crucial for advancing India’s efforts in this domain.

Conclusion

ISRO’s initiatives towards planetary defense underscore its commitment to global efforts in mitigating asteroid risks. With ongoing developments and collaborations, India seeks to bolster its capabilities and contribute effectively to safeguarding Earth from potential asteroid impacts.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

People in India exposed to extreme levels of humid heat during monsoons increased by at least 67 crores over the period 1951-2020, a research has found.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Humid Heat
  2. Dry Heat

Humid Heat

Humid heat occurs when there are high temperatures combined with elevated levels of moisture in the air.

  • Mechanism: Sweat does not evaporate efficiently, making it difficult for the body to cool down naturally.
  • Heat Index: This is the perceived temperature combining actual air temperature with relative humidity, often making it feel hotter than the thermometer indicates.
  • Effects:
    • Dampness and stickiness are common, leading to rapid sweating outdoors.
    • Contributes to feelings of fatigue and low energy.
    • Can lead to hyperthermia, causing dehydration, muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, fainting, and potentially heat stroke.

Dry Heat

Dry heat is characterized by low humidity levels.

  • Occurrence: Typically found in arid desert climates with minimal precipitation.
  • Advantages: Sweat evaporates quickly off the skin, providing immediate relief from the heat.
  • Disadvantages: Rapid evaporation can lead to faster dehydration.
  • Additional Considerations: Dry air can cause discomfort such as dry mouth due to rapid evaporation of moisture from saliva and breath.

-Source: Times of India



Context:

After several decades, the locally extinct Indian gaur has been spotted in the Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR) in Andhra Pradesh.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indian Gaur
  2. Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR)

Indian Gaur:

  • Scientific Name: Bos gaurus
  • Distribution: Indigenous to South and Southeast Asia.
  • Habitat:
    • Found in evergreen, semi-evergreen forests, and moist deciduous forests with open grasslands.
    • Prefers hilly terrains below 1,500-1,800 m altitude with large, undisturbed forest tracts and abundant water.
  • Physical Features:
    • Length: 240 cm to 340 cm; Tail length: 70 cm to 105 cm.
    • Height: 170 cm to 230 cm.
    • Weight: Adult males: 600 kg to 1500 kg; Adult females: 400 kg to 1000 kg.
    • Distinctive convex shape on the forehead, strong limbs, and short tails.
    • Both males and females have horns with a slightly inward curvature, pale green or yellowish-brown in color.
  • Behavior:
    • Social animals living in groups of about 30 to 40.
  • Conservation Status:
    • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable.
    • Protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (Schedule I).
    • Listed in CITES Appendix I.

Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR):

  • Location: Situated in the Nallamala hill ranges, an offshoot of the Eastern Ghats, spanning across the undivided districts of Guntur, Prakasam, and Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Establishment: Attained the status of a Tiger Reserve in 1983.
  • Size: The largest tiger reserve in India, covering an area of 5,937 square kilometers.
  • Name: Named after two major dams in the region, Nagarjuna Sagar Dam and Srisailam Dam.
  • Wildlife Sanctuaries: Comprises Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and Gundla Brahmeswaram Wildlife Sanctuary (GBM).
  • River: The river Krishna flows through the reserve for approximately 270 kilometers.
  • Topography: Varied terrain including plateaus, ridges, gorges, and deep valleys.
  • Vegetation: Tropical dry deciduous forests with bamboo and grass undergrowth.
  • Flora: Home to endemic species such as Andrographis nallamalayana, Eriolaena lushingtonii, Crotalaria madurensis Var, Dicliptera beddomei, and Premna hamiltonii.
  • Fauna: Rich biodiversity including top predators like Tiger, Leopard, Wolf, Wild Dog, and Jackal. Prey species include Sambar, Chital, Chowsingha, Chinkara, Mouse Deer, Wild Boar, and Porcupine. The river Krishna supports Mugger Crocodiles, Otters, and Turtles.

-Source: Financial Express


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