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Current Affairs 06 February 2024

  1. MQ-9B Drones to enhance Maritime Security
  2. SC seeks status report on implementation of ‘Kavach’.
  3. Sub-classification among reserved categories
  4. Government Plans to do away with multiple certification for food products
  5. Heatwaves and Wildfires
  6. Appointment of Judges of High Court


Context:

Recently, the US approved the sale of 31 MQ-9B armed drones to India. The acquisition will enhance India’s Maritime security.

Relevance:

GS-III: Internal Security Challenges (Defence Technology), GS-III: Science and Technology, GS-II: Governance (Government Policies & Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. MQ-9B Drones
  2. About Drones
  3. Usage of Drones Explored in India
  4. Regulation of Drone usage in India

MQ-9B Drones:

  • India is set to acquire 31 MQ-9B from the US at an estimated cost of USD 3.99 billion. This demonstrates India’s commitment to modernising its military.
    • The SeaGuardian drones are being procured for the three services as they can carry out a variety of roles including maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare and over-the-horizon targeting.
    • The High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones are capable of remaining airborne for over 35 hours and can carry four Hellfire missiles and around 450 kgs of bombs.
  • Significance:
    • The acquisition will bolster India’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance patrols in sea lanes of operation.
    •  The long-endurance drones will bolster the surveillance capabilities of Indian armed forces, especially along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

About Drones

  • Drone is a layman terminology for Unmanned Aircraft (UA). There are three subsets of Unmanned Aircraft- Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), Autonomous Aircraft and Model Aircraft.
  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft consists of remote pilot station(s), the required command and control links and any other components, as specified in the type design.
  • Drones offer low-cost, safe and quick aerial surveys for data collection and are useful for industries such as power, mining, realty, oil and gas exploration, railways and highways. They are also effective in relief and rescue work and in policing.
  • DGCA has designed five different categories of drones as: Nano, Micro, Small, Medium, and Large.

Usage of Drones Explored in India

  • Agriculture- Gather data and automate redundant processes to maximize efficiency, to spray medicines, In a process of planting by distributing seed on the land, etc.
  • Healthcare- Delivering quick access to drugs, blood, and medical technology in remote areas, transportation of harvested organs to recipients (through drones corridor), etc.
  • Disaster Management- Surveillance of disaster-affected areas to assess damage, locate victims, and deliver aid.
  • Urban Planning- Instant mapping and survey of the land which has to be developed avoiding congestion and increasing green cover. E.g.: Recently, the Greater Chennai Municipal Corporation (GCMC) became first Municipal Corporation to map Chennai using drones.
  • Conservation of Endangered Species- Monitor and track the number of animals.
  • Weather Forecasting- Drones can physically follow weather patterns as they develop to understand the environment and imminent weather trends in a better way.
  • Waste Management- Identify where the garbage is so that it can be picked up the garbage picking vans. Drones can be used to clean ocean waste as well. UAV like Roomba by RanMarine operates at the vanguard of these initiatives and have helped to clean oceans in past.
  • Mining- Drones in mining can be used in volumetric data capturing of ore, rock and minerals storage which is extremely difficult to measure manually.

Regulation of Drone usage in India

Drone Regulation 1.0

  • Drone Regulation 1.0 is a set of guidelines issued by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for commercial use of drones or remotely operated aircraft came into force from 2018.
  • Under this regulation, the Digital Sky Platform will enable online registration of pilots, devices, service providers, and NPNT (no permission, no take-off).
  • The Digital Sky Platform is a unique unmanned traffic management (UTM) system which is expected to facilitate registration and licensing of drones and operators in addition to giving instant (online) clearances to operators for every flight.
  • The airspace has been partitioned into Red Zone (flying not permitted), Yellow Zone (controlled airspace), and Green Zone (automatic permission). The restricted locations are airports, near international border, near coastline, state secretariat complexes strategic locations, military installations.

Drone Regulations 2.0

  • Drone regulations 2.0, focuses on three thresholds:
    • BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight),
    • Delivery of payloads, and
    • Automate the air traffic management to the extent possible.
  • The current policy allows one drone pilot for each drone whereas in the next set of regulations, one pilot can operate any number of drones. Under drone regulations 2.0, the drones will be tracked by computers through artificial intelligence.
  • However, delivery of products by e-commerce players like Amazon and flying taxis like Uber Elevate are likely to be part of drone regulations 3.0.

Draft Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2020

  • The Draft Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Rules, 2020 are a set of rules notified by the government aims to regulate the production, import, trade, ownership, establishment of the drone ports (airports for drones) and operation of unmanned aircraft systems. It also seeks to create a framework for drones use by businesses.
  • The Rules state that an authorised manufacturer or importer of drones can sell its devices only to an individual or entity approved by the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and only Nano class drones will be allowed to operate in India in general and only a qualified remote pilot will be permitted to operate heavier drones.
  • The DGCA will have the powers to inspect a UAS manufacturing or maintenance facility before granting any authorisation under these rules.
  • No UAS shall operate in India unless there is in existence a valid third-party insurance policy to cover the liability that may arise on account of a mishap involving such UAS.
  • No UAS should carry any payload except as permitted by the DGCA.
  • No person shall drop or project or permit to be dropped from a UAS in motion any object except when specified.
  • For owning and using a drone, one has to be at least 18 years old and in the case of companies, the requirement is that their main place of business has to be in India and the chairman and at least two thirds of directors have to be Indian citizens.

-Source: The Hindu, Livemint



Context:

Recently, The Supreme Court of India gave the Centre four weeks to file a status report on measures taken to implement ‘Kavach’, an automatic train protection (ATP) system.

The death of over 288 passengers in the ghastly train accident on June 2 at Bahanaga Bazaar railway station in the Balasore district of Odisha has brought into sharp focus the safety mechanisms needed to prevent such tragedies.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Kavach System: An Indigenously Developed Automatic Train Protection (ATP) System
  2. Applications

Kavach System: An Indigenously Developed Automatic Train Protection (ATP) System

  • Developed by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) under Indian Railway (IR).
  • Collaboration with Medha Servo Drives Pvt Ltd, HBL Power Systems Ltd, and Kernex Microsystems.

Components and Communication:

  • Consists of electronic devices and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) devices.
  • Installed in locomotives, signaling systems, and tracks.
  • Communication between devices using ultra-high radio frequencies.
  • Logic programming enables control of train brakes and driver alerts.

Field Tests:

  • Railway conducted field tests for Kavach since 2016.
  • Tests carried out on passenger trains.

Applications:

  • Assisting locomotive pilots in avoiding Signal Passing At Danger (SPAD) and overspeeding.
  • Alerting loco pilots and automatically applying brakes to halt the train when another train is detected within a set distance.
  • Continuous relay of signals ahead for better visibility in low-visibility conditions.
  • Automatic speed control by applying brakes if the loco pilot fails to do so.
  • Supporting train operations during inclement weather, like dense fog.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

A seven Bench Constitutional Bench is set to hear a number of petitions regarding validity of sub-classification among reserved categories.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Sub-classification within SCs and STs
  2. Legal Aspects of Sub-Categorization of Scheduled Castes: A Judicial Journey
  3. Arguments for and Against Sub-Categorization of SCs

Sub-classification within SCs and STs:

  • The Seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court will decide on the validity of sub-classification within the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories.
  • In 2020, a five Judge Bench held that states could sub-classify Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Central List to provide preferential treatment to the “Weakest out of the weak”.
  • However, this view was contrary to the judgement pronounced in 2004 that held that allowing states to unilaterally “make a class within a class of members of the Scheduled Castes” would amount to tinkering with the Presidential list.
  • Following these contradictions, the question was referred to a seven-Judge Constitutional bench.

Legal Aspects of Sub-Categorization of Scheduled Castes: A Judicial Journey

Attempts by States:

  • Over the past two decades, States like Punjab, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu have sought to implement reservation laws at the State level for sub-categorization of Scheduled Castes (SCs).
  • The aim is to determine a separate quantum of reservation for these subcategories within the broader category of SCs.

Judicial Intervention:

  • Legal challenges arose when the Andhra Pradesh government, in 1996, recommended sub-categorization based on backwardness and representation disparities among SC communities.
  • The Supreme Court, in 2004, ruled that States lacked the unilateral power to sub-categorize SCs or Scheduled Tribes (STs).

Contradictory Judgments:

  • In 2020, a five-judge Bench, led by Justice Arun Mishra, suggested that determining benefits within the already-notified lists of SCs/STs would not constitute interference and States could proceed.
  • This apparent contradiction led to the 2020 judgment being referred to a larger Bench.

Union Government’s Involvement:

  • Despite the pending Supreme Court decision, the Union government explored legal avenues in 2005.
  • The Attorney-General of India (AGI) opined that sub-categorization was possible with “unimpeachable evidence,” suggesting a constitutional amendment.

National Commission and Constitutional Amendment Proposal:

  • The Union government formed a National Commission to investigate sub-categorization in Andhra Pradesh.
  • The Cabinet recommended amending Article 341 of the Constitution, but the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) argued against the need for a constitutional amendment.
  • They pointed to Article 16(4), stating it already empowered States to create special laws for under-represented backward classes.

Arguments for and Against Sub-Categorization of SCs:

Arguments in Favor:

  • Graded Inequalities: The primary argument for sub-categorization stems from the perceived graded inequalities among Scheduled Caste (SC) communities.
  • Access Disparities: The contention is that even within marginalized communities, some have lesser access to basic facilities, leading to more forward communities consistently availing benefits while overshadowing the more backward ones.
  • Need for Separate Reservation: Advocates argue that sub-categorizing communities and providing separate reservations for the more backward groups within the SC category is the solution.

Arguments Against:

  • Root Cause Addressal: Both the SC and ST Commissions counter that separate reservations within categories do not address the root cause of the problem.
  • Representation at All Levels: The commissions emphasize the need for representation at all levels and contend that the most backward SCs are significantly behind more forward SC communities.
  • Insufficient Candidates: Even with reserved posts at higher levels, the most backward SCs may lack enough candidates to be considered, perpetuating the existing disparity.
  • Prioritizing Existing Schemes: Both commissions recommend that existing schemes and government benefits should reach these sections before considering sub-categorization to ensure comprehensive upliftment.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Government plan to remove multiple certifications for food products and has approved various amendments to streamline food safety and standards regulations.

Relevance:

GS II- Governance, Facts for prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Streamlining food certification process
  2. About BIS
  3. FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India)

Streamlining food certification process:

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has approved various amendments to streamline food safety and standards regulations.
  • The amendments aimed to do away with Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) or AGMARK certification for food products.
  • Once the amendments are finalised, food businesses would not have to go to different authorities for mandatory certification with only FSSAI certification being made mandatory for food products.
  • The Food Authority also approved a first-of-its-kind and comprehensive manual of methods of analysis for ensuring regulatory compliance of the food products.
  • The Food Authority is also going to set standards for ‘Haleem’ as part of standards for meat products.
    • Haleem is a dish made of meat, pulses, grains, and other ingredients, which currently don’t have any set standards.

About BIS

  • The Bureau of Indian Standards is the national Standards Body of India working under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India.
  • It is established by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 which came into effect on 23 December 1986.
  • The Minister in charge of the Ministry or Department having administrative control of the BIS is the ex-officio President of the BIS.
  • The BIS Act, 1986 provides for the establishment of a Bureau for the harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking and quality certification of goods and for connected matters.
  • BIS has its Headquarters at New Delhi. 
  • The Vision of BIS is to be the leader in all matters concerning Standardization, Certification and Quality.
  • BIS thereby plays a very important role in the economic development of the country.
  • BIS also operates Certification Schemes that assure quality, safety and reliability to the users.
  • The BIS Product Certification Scheme is one of the largest in the world .
  • BIS gives utmost thrust for safeguarding and protecting consumer interest.
  • BIS has well laid down mechanisms and procedures to address public grievances related to consumer complaints against BIS services and ISI marked products.

Statutory Framework of BIS

  • The Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 2016, has been implemented since 12 October 2017.
  • The highlights of the new BIS Act are as follows;-
  • Allows multiple conformity assessment schemes in line with global practices.
  • Enables the Government to authorize any agency apart from BIS to certify and enforce conformity to a standard.
  • Enables the Government to include products under mandatory certification on grounds of health, safety, environment, national security and prevention of deceptive practices.
  • Enables the Government to bring Hallmarking of precious metal articles under mandatory certification.
  • Provides consumer protection measures like recall of non-conforming standard marked products, compensation to the consumer and more stringent penal provisions.

FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India):

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India is a legal entity established by the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006.
  • Objectives:
    • Establishing scientifically sound food standards
    • To govern the production, storage, distribution, import, and sale of food.
    • To improve food safety.

FSSAI’s Role/Functions:

  • Development of regulations to establish standards/guidelines for food articles.
  • Establishing mechanisms/guidelines for accreditation of certification bodies involved in food safety management system certification.
  • Establishing a national information network to ensure that the public receives reliable and objective information about food safety and other issues of concern.
  • Help develop international technical standards for food, sanitary, and phytosanitary standards.

Composition:

  • The FSSAI is made up of a Chairperson and twenty-two members, one-third of whom must be women.
  • The FSSAI Chairperson is appointed by the Central Government
  • The Food Authority is assisted in setting standards by Scientific Committees and Panels, and in coordinating with enforcement agencies by the Central Advisory Committee.
  • Ministry Concerned: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

At the state level:

  • The FSSAI appoints state-level food safety authorities.
  • The State Food Safety Commissioners are primarily responsible for enforcement.

-Source: All India Radio



Context:

Chile is currently facing a heatwave and intense wildfires that has claimed over 122 lives.A state of Emergency has been declared in Chile and additional military personnel have been deployed to assist affected regions.

Relevance:

GS I- Geography, GS  III- Environment (Climate change)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is wildfire?
  2. What causes Wildfire?
  3. How dangerous is inhaling wildfire smoke?
  4. About Heat Wave
  5. Health Impacts of Heat waves

What is wildfire?

  • A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire that burns in the wildland vegetation, often in rural areas. 
  • Wildfires can burn in forests, grasslands, savannas, and other ecosystems, and have been doing so for hundreds of millions of years.
  • They are not limited to a particular continent or environment.

What causes Wildfire?

  • Wildfires require right climatic conditions, burnable fuel and a spark.
  • Rising temperatures suck moisture out of plants, creating an abundance of dry fuel.
  • Drought and high heat can kill plants and dry out dead grass, and other material on the forest floor that fuel the fire once it starts sweeping through a patch.
  • While dry vegetation is the burnable fuel that serves as kindling for fires, the spark is sometimes caused by lightning, at other times by accident or recklessness of the local population.

How dangerous is inhaling wildfire smoke?

  • While fire poses a direct risk to people’s life and property, wildfire smoke, and particularly the concentration of PM 2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns, can also affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
  • For those already suffering from cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses, there is a risk of flare-ups.

About Heat Wave

  • A heat wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the North-Western and South Central parts of India.
  • Heat waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July.
  • Higher daily peak temperatures and longer, more intense heat waves are becoming increasingly frequent globally due to climate change.

Criteria for Heat Waves

  • The heat wave is considered when the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C for Plains and at least 30°C for Hilly regions.
  • If the normal maximum temperature of a station is less than or equal to 40°C, then an increase of 5°C to 6°C from the normal temperature is considered to be heat wave condition.
  • Further, an increase of 7°C or more from the normal temperature is considered as severe heat wave condition.
  • If the normal maximum temperature of a station is more than 40°C, then an increase of 4°C to 5°C from the normal temperature is considered to be heat wave condition. Further, an increase of 6°C or more is considered as severe heat wave condition.
  • Additionally, if the actual maximum temperature remains 45°C or more irrespective of normal maximum temperature, a heat wave is declared.

Health Impacts of Heat waves:

  • The health impacts of Heat Waves typically involve dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke.
  • It also causes heat cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and sweating.
  • The extreme temperatures and resultant atmospheric conditions adversely affect people living in these regions as they cause physiological stress, sometimes resulting in death.

-Source: Indian Express, Livemint



Context:

Justice Vijay Bishnoi was sworn in as Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court. The oath was administered by the Assam Governor during the swearing-in ceremony.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Indian Judiciary)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1.  What is the Collegium System?
  2. Working of the Collegium System and NJAC
  3. Appointment procedure of HC Judges
  4. Transfer procedure of HC Judges

What is the Collegium System?

  • The Collegium System is a system under which appointments/elevation of judges/lawyers to Supreme Court and transfers of judges of High Courts and Apex Court are decided by a forum of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.’ There is no mention of the Collegium either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.
  • The recommendations of the Collegium are binding on the Central Government; if the Collegium sends the names of the judges/lawyers to the government for the second time.

Evolution of the Collegium system

  • In the First Judges case (1982), the Court held that consultation does not mean concurrence and it only implies an exchange of views.
  • In the Second Judges case (1993), the Court reversed its earlier ruling and changed the meaning of the word consultation to concurrence.

Third Judges Case, 1998:

  • In the Third Judges case (1998), the Court opined that the consultation process to be adopted by the Chief Justice of India requires “consultation of a plurality of judges”.
  • The sole opinion of the CJI does not constitute the consultation process. He should consult a collegium of four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court and even if two judges give an adverse opinion, he should not send the recommendation to the government.
  • The court held that the recommendation made by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) without complying with the norms and requirements of the consultation process is not binding on the government.
  • The Collegium system was born through the “Third Judges case” and it is in practice since 1998. It is used for appointments and transfers of judges in High courts and Supreme Courts.
  • There is no mention of the Collegium either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.

Working of the Collegium System and NJAC

  • The collegium recommends the names of lawyers or judges to the Central Government. Similarly, the Central Government also sends some of its proposed names to the Collegium.
  • Collegium considers the names or suggestions made by the Central Government and resends the file to the government for final approval.
  • If the Collegium resends the same name again then the government has to give its assent to the names. But the time limit is not fixed to reply. This is the reason that appointment of judges takes a long time.
  • Through the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2014 the National Judicial Commission Act (NJAC) was established to replace the collegium system for the appointment of judges.
  • However, the Supreme Court upheld the collegium system and struck down the NJAC as unconstitutional on the grounds that the involvement of Political Executive in judicial appointment was against the “Principles of Basic Structure”. i.e., the “Independence of Judiciary”.

Issues involved in appointment

  • Cumbersome Process: There are inordinate delays in the appointment of High Court judges and it leads to the pendency of cases.
  • Lack of Transparency: There is no objective criteria for selection and people come to know about judges only after selection. It also promotes nepotism in the judiciary. The consultations of the Collegium are also not discussed in any public platform.
  • Instances of Politicisation: In many cases, there is indication that due to the unfavorable judgments of certain judges the political executive hinders their appointments, elevation, or transfer. This reflects poorly on the concept of independence of the judiciary.
  • Improper Representation: Certain sections of societies have higher representation whereas many vulnerable sections have nil representation.

Appointment procedure of HC Judges

  • Article 217 of the Constitution: It states that the Judge of a High Court shall be appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India (CJI), the Governor of the State.
  • In the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of the High Court is consulted.
  • Consultation Process: High Court judges are recommended by a Collegium comprising the CJI and two senior-most judges.
  • The proposal, however, is initiated by the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned in consultation with two senior-most colleagues.
  • The recommendation is sent to the Chief Minister, who advises the Governor to send the proposal to the Union Law Minister.

Transfer procedure of HC Judges

  • Article 222 of the Constitution makes provision for the transfer of a Judge (including Chief Justice) from one High Court to any other High Court. The initiation of the proposal for the transfer of a Judge should be made by the Chief Justice of India whose opinion in this regard is determinative.
  • Consent of a Judge for his first or subsequent transfer would not be required.
  • All transfers are to be made in public interest i.e., for promoting better administration of justice throughout the country.

-Source: The Indian Express, The Hindu


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