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Current Affairs 07 August 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Official vs National Language
  2. 4 Years after Removal of Article 370
  3. BharatNet Project
  4. Finger Minutiae Record – Finger Image Record (FMR-FIR) Modality
  5. Purchasing Managers Index
  6. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Official vs National Language


Context:

Recently, the Supreme Court of India observed that although there are at least 22 official languages in the country, Hindi is “the national language”.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Points of the Case
  2. Language Provisions and Hindi
  3. Language Provisions in Judiciary
  4. Progression over Decades
  5. Subordinate Courts’ Language Usage

Key Points of the Case:

Transfer Petition and Jurisdiction:

  • The Supreme Court reviewed a transfer petition related to a motor accident case originating in Siliguri, West Bengal.
  • The plea sought to transfer the case from the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT) in Uttar Pradesh to the one in Darjeeling, invoking the Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) of 1988.

Compensation Application under MVA:

  • The MVA allows individuals injured in accidents to apply for compensation.
  • The petitioner argued that language could pose a barrier since all witnesses are from Siliguri.

Choice of MACT and Rejection of Transfer Plea:

  • The claimants had chosen the MACT in Farrukhabad, UP, within their rights under the law, which the court recognized.
  • Consequently, the transfer petition was dismissed.

Language Considerations:

  • The court highlighted Hindi as the national language, expecting witnesses to communicate in Hindi.
  • Accepting the petitioner’s argument could disadvantage the claimants, who would have to convey their version in Bengali.

Language Provisions and Hindi:

  • The Indian Constitution refrains from designating any language as the “national language.”
  • Article 343(1) establishes Hindi in Devanagari script as the official language of the Union for official purposes, with international Indian numerals.
  • Article 351 directs the Union to develop and promote Hindi as a medium of expression without disrupting its essence, styles, and forms used in Hindustani and other languages specified in the Eighth Schedule.
Eighth Schedule and Listed Languages:
  • The Eighth Schedule enlists 22 languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Sanskrit, Assamese, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, and Urdu.
  • Additions like Bodo, Dogri, Maithili, and Santhali were made in 2004, initially totaling 14 languages.
  • There are calls to include 38 more languages, such as Bhojpuri, Garhwali (Pahari), and Rajasthani.
English’s Role:

English, along with Hindi, serves as an official language of the central government.

  • Article 343(2) maintains English for official Union purposes for 15 years from the Constitution’s commencement (till January 26, 1950).
  • Article 343(3) grants Parliament the authority to legislate the use of English or Devanagari numerals after the 15-year period, for specified purposes.

Official Languages Act 1963:

  • The Act ensures the persistence of English for Union official purposes and parliamentary use beyond the initial 15 years stipulated in Article 343(2).

Language Provisions in Judiciary:

  • Article 348(1) stipulates that, until altered by Parliament, all proceedings in the Supreme Court (SC) and High Courts (HCs), as well as Bills, Acts, ordinances, rules, and orders at the Union and state levels, shall be conducted in the English language.
Use of Other Languages:
  • Article 348(2) allows the use of Hindi or any other language used for official purposes of the State in HC proceedings, with the Governor’s authorization and the President’s consent.
  • While proceedings can be in any official language, it mandates that any judgment, decree, or order by an HC must be in English.

Official Languages Act 1963 and Judgments:

  • The Official Languages Act 1963 addresses the optional use of Hindi or other official languages in HC judgments.
  • With the President’s consent, a Governor can authorize the use of Hindi or the state’s official language alongside English in judgments, but an English translation must accompany it, issued by the HC.

Progression over Decades:

  • In 1965, a Cabinet Committee decision mandated the Chief Justice of India’s consent for the use of languages other than English in High Courts (HCs).
  • Hindi usage was authorized in HCs of Uttar Pradesh (1969), Madhya Pradesh (1971), and Bihar (1972) after consultation with the Chief Justice.
  • Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu later sought to introduce regional languages in their HCs, but the Supreme Court (SC) rejected these proposals.

Prime Minister’s Call for Local Languages:

  • In 2022, the Indian Prime Minister emphasized the importance of using local languages in courts to enhance accessibility for a significant portion of the population.
  • The (then) Chief Justice N V Ramana echoed this sentiment, suggesting gradual implementation over time.

Subordinate Courts’ Language Usage:

  • While HCs and the SC allow Hindi and English, other regional languages face restrictions.
  • The Code of Criminal Procedure (1973) allows each State Government to determine the language of subordinate courts within the state.
  • According to the Code of Civil Procedure (1908), subordinate courts must use the language in existence during the Code’s adoption unless directed otherwise by the State Government.

-Source: Indian Express


4 Years after Removal of Article 370


Context:

The Union Territory of J&K has witnessed many firsts in the past four years after removal of its special status under Article 370 in August, 2019. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the abrogation of Article 370 had paved the way for peace and development in J&K.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding Article 370 of the Indian Constitution: Special Provisions for Jammu and Kashmir
  2. Removal of Special Status of Jammu and Kashmir: Article 370 and Subsequent Developments
  3. Transformations in Jammu and Kashmir: Milestones, Security, and Political Dynamics
  4. Challenges Ahead for Jammu and Kashmir: Addressing Key Concerns

Understanding Article 370 of the Indian Constitution: Special Provisions for Jammu and Kashmir

Context and Scope:
  • Article 370 is the initial provision of Part XXI, titled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions,’ in the Indian Constitution.
  • It grants special provisions to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), allowing the state to have its own constitution and offering exemptions from certain aspects of the Constitution of India.
Exemptions and Legislative Restrictions:
  • Article 370 exempts J&K from the application of the Indian Constitution, with the exception of Article 1 (which defines the territory of India) and Article 370 itself.
  • It enables the state to draft its own constitution.
  • Parliamentary legislative powers over J&K are restricted, necessitating “consultation” with the state government for extending central laws related to subjects listed in the Instrument of Accession (IoA).
Instrument of Accession and Powers:
  • The Instrument of Accession (IoA) was signed in 1947 by Raja Hari Singh of J&K and Governor General Lord Mountbatten.
  • The IoA granted Parliament authority to legislate on Defence, External Affairs, and Communications for J&K.
  • However, for extending these powers to other subjects, the “concurrence” of the state government is essential.
Application and Transformation:
  • Often described as a “tunnel,” Article 370 facilitated the gradual application of the Indian Constitution to J&K.
  • Through a 1954 order, a significant portion of the Constitution, including numerous Constitutional amendments, was extended to J&K.

Removal of Special Status of Jammu and Kashmir: Article 370 and Subsequent Developments

Article 370(3) and Removal of Special Status:
  • Article 370(3) allows for the removal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status through a Presidential Order.
  • Such an order requires prior concurrence from J&K’s Constituent Assembly, which was dissolved in 1957.
Views on Removal:
  • One perspective holds that since the Constituent Assembly was dissolved, the removal of special status is not possible.
  • Another viewpoint suggests that removal can occur with the concurrence of the State Assembly.
2019 Developments:
  • The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 2019, issued by the President, eliminated J&K’s special status and extended the Indian Constitution’s provisions to the region.
  • The J&K (Reorganization) Act 2019 led to the division of J&K into two Union Territories: J&K with a Legislative Assembly and Ladakh without one.
Legal Challenge and Supreme Court Hearing:
  • The Supreme Court of India is presently hearing petitions challenging the 2019 abrogation of Article 370.
  • These developments are significant in shaping the legal and constitutional landscape surrounding Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

Transformations in Jammu and Kashmir: Milestones, Security, and Political Dynamics

Milestones in the Past 4 Years:
  • Panchayati Raj Establishment:
    • All three tiers of Panchayati Raj were established, enhancing local governance structures.
  • Delimitation and ST Reservation:
    • Seats for Scheduled Tribes (STs) were reserved during the delimitation of Assembly constituencies.
  • Domicile Law Changes:
    • Changes in domicile laws facilitated settlement of individuals from other parts of the country in J&K.
Security Situation:
  • Reduced Stone Pelting:
    • Presence of increased security forces and actions by agencies like NIA led to a drastic reduction in stone-pelting incidents.
  • Decreased Terrorism Incidents:
    • Government data indicated a 32% decline in terrorism acts between August 2019 and June 2022 compared to the preceding 10 months.
Political Changes:

District Council Elections:

  • District Development Council (DDC) elections were conducted in all 20 districts in 2020, fostering hopes for grassroots democracy.

Political Realignments:

  • Many opposition leaders were detained or had restricted movement post Article 370’s abrogation.
  • New political entities emerged, and some leaders shifted allegiances, like the alliance between PDP and NC.

Delimitation Commission:

  • A 3-member Commission led by retired SC judge Justice Ranjana Desai was formed to delineate 90 Assembly constituencies.
  • Recommendations included increased seats in Jammu and Kashmir divisions and reserved constituencies for STs and SCs, along with special provisions.

Challenges Ahead for Jammu and Kashmir: Addressing Key Concerns

Grassroot Democracy and Development:

  • Despite the establishment of District Development Councils (DDCs), genuine grassroot democracy remains a challenge.
  • Development plans are often formulated by officials rather than by elected representatives, hampering effective local governance.

Electoral Uncertainty and Protests:

  • The delimitation process sparked speculation about early Assembly elections, but their timing is uncertain.
  • Efforts to include new groups in the state’s Scheduled Tribes (ST) list led to protests from certain communities like the Gujjars and Bakerwals.

Targeted Killings and Security Vulnerabilities:

  • A series of targeted civilian killings, particularly of Kashmiri Hindus and non-Kashmiris, has exposed vulnerabilities despite improved security measures.
  • The security situation is complicated by the use of small weapons dropped by drones and alleged “part-time” militants engaged by handlers from across the border.

-Source: Indian Express


BharatNet Project


Context:

The Union Cabinet has approved an outlay of Rs 1.39 lakh crore for BharatNet, the government’s project for last-mile connectivity across 6.4 lakh villages in the country.                         

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. BharatNet Project: Transforming Rural Broadband Connectivity in India
  2. Phases of Implementation
  3. Budget Allocation
  4. Progress, Challenges, and Future Plans of the BharatNet Project

BharatNet Project: Transforming Rural Broadband Connectivity in India

  • BharatNet is the world’s largest rural broadband connectivity initiative, focusing on optical fiber-based internet access.
  • It is managed by Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL), a special purpose organization under the Ministry of Communications, Department of Telecommunications.
  • Aligned with the Digital India program, it aims to bridge the digital divide and enhance rural internet access.
Features & Benefits:
  • Leveraging optical fiber technology, the project aims to connect over 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across India with broadband internet.
  • The goal is to provide a minimum of 100 Mbps bandwidth to each Gram Panchayat, facilitating access to e-services like e-governance, e-learning, e-commerce, and more.
  • Wi-Fi hotspots are being established in all gram panchayats, ensuring last-mile connectivity.
  • The project is expected to boost direct and indirect employment opportunities and increase income generation in rural areas.
  • Home broadband packages are available, starting from Rs 399 per month, offering 30 Mbps unlimited data and bundled OTT services.

Phases of Implementation:

  • The project is being implemented in three phases, as approved by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in 2016.
Phase-I:
  • Aiming to cover 1,00,000 Gram Panchayats (GPs).
  • Execution carried out by three Central Public Sector Units (CPSUs): BSNL, RailTel, and PGCIL.
  • Targeted completion by March 2017.
Phase-II:
  • Encompasses the remaining GPs using a mix of underground/aerial optical fiber cables (OFC), radio, and satellite technologies.
  • Involves three CPSUs and State Governments, often through their Discoms (Distribution Companies) or other agencies.
  • Targeted completion by December 2018.
Phase-III:
  • Envisions a futuristic network with a ring topology connecting districts, blocks, and Gram Panchayats.
  • Targeted completion by 2023.
  • The BharatNet project’s multi-phased approach aims to achieve comprehensive broadband connectivity in rural areas, leveraging a combination of technologies and partnerships for nationwide impact.

Budget Allocation:

  • The BharatNet project has been allocated a total budget of Rs. 61,000 crore.
  • Funds are allocated in a consolidated manner, not specific to individual states or Union Territories.
  • The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) disburses a lump sum amount to Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) for project execution.
  • USOF collects levies from telecom companies to support communication service development in rural and underserved areas.

Progress, Challenges, and Future Plans of the BharatNet Project

Achievements So Far:
  • Initial goal: Connecting 2.5 lakh gram panchayats with optical fiber by August 2021.
  • Current status: Approximately 1.94 lakh villages connected; remaining villages expected to be connected within the next 2.5 years.
  • Delays caused by COVID-related lockdowns and movement restrictions.
  • Government extended the project deadline to 2025 in the Union Budget 2022-23.
Challenges Faced:

Slow Implementation:

  • Implementation progress has been relatively slow.
  • About 194,000 gram panchayats have been made service-ready as of March this year.
  • Around 6,000 gram panchayats were added from November 2022 to March.

PPP Mode Challenges:

  • Initial attempt to involve private companies through a public-private partnership (PPP) model faced challenges.
  • First request for proposal (RFP) in July 2021 received no response from private players.
  • Concerns over onerous terms and conditions and unfavorable revenue sharing model.
Future Plans:
  • Government to introduce a revised PPP model for the BharatNet project in the coming months.
  • The updated model aims to address challenges faced by private companies and attract their participation.
  • The focus remains on expanding optical fiber-based broadband connectivity to rural areas across India.

-Source: Indian Express


Finger Minutiae Record – Finger Image Record (FMR-FIR) Modality


Context:

Recently, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has rolled out an in-house Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) technology-based Finger Minutiae Record – Finger Image Record (FMR-FIR) modality.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Finger Minutiae Record – Finger Image Record (FMR-FIR) modality
  2. Rationale and Implementation
  3. Advantages and Implications
  4. Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS)

Finger Minutiae Record – Finger Image Record (FMR-FIR) modality

  • The FMR-FIR modality is an advanced AI/ML-based technology developed by the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) to enhance security within the Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS).
Key Features and Functionality:
  • FMR-FIR combines two components – finger minutiae and finger image – for fingerprint biometric authentication.
  • Its primary function is to verify the liveness of captured fingerprints during Aadhaar authentication.
  • It distinguishes between genuine “live” fingers and cloned or fake fingerprints, preventing spoofing attempts.
  • Real-time operation provides instant verification results.

Rationale and Implementation:

  • Emerging Threats: The rise of fraudulent activities involving cloned fingerprints necessitated a robust solution to protect AePS transactions.
  • Increasing Payment-related Frauds: Significant surge in payment-related frauds in India, from 700,000 in FY21 to nearly 20 million in FY23.
  • Silicone-based Fraud: Unauthorized money transfers using fake fingerprints created with silicone prompted the need for advanced security measures.
  • AI/ML Integration: Integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning enhances accuracy and effectiveness of fingerprint authentication.

Advantages and Implications:

  • Enhances AePS Security: FMR-FIR technology is designed to combat fraudulent activities, particularly misuse of cloned fingerprints.
  • Mitigates Vulnerabilities: Boosts transaction confidence by reducing vulnerabilities to spoofing and unauthorized access.
  • Technological Innovation: Demonstrates technological innovation in ensuring societal welfare and secure financial transactions within the Aadhaar ecosystem.

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS)

UIDAI:
  • Establishment: UIDAI is a statutory authority formed on July 12, 2016, under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, in accordance with the Aadhaar Act 2016.
  • Initial Setup: Originally established in January 2009 as an attached office under the Planning Commission.
  • Mandate: Responsible for issuing a 12-digit unique identification number (Aadhaar) to all Indian residents.
  • Achievements: As of October 31, 2021, UIDAI had issued 131.68 crore Aadhaar numbers.
AePS (Aadhaar-enabled Payment System):
  • Bank-Led Model: AePS facilitates online interoperable financial transactions at Point of Sale (PoS) or micro-ATMs through Business Correspondents (BCs) of any bank, using Aadhaar authentication.
  • Initiation: Developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), a joint venture of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA).
  • Objective: Provides accessible and secure banking services to marginalized sections, especially in rural and remote areas.
  • Simplified Transactions: Eliminates the need for OTPs, bank account details, and other financial information.
  • Process: Transactions are conducted using the bank’s name, Aadhaar number, and captured fingerprint during Aadhaar enrollment.

-Source: The Hindu


Purchasing Managers Index


Context:

According to S&P Global, The Services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) recently reached an impressive 13-year high of 62.3 in July after a three-month low in June. Highlights the sector’s resilience and its role in driving economic growth.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Mobilization of Resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)?
  2. Understanding PMI

What is Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)?

  • The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is an index of the prevailing direction of economic trends in the manufacturing and service sectors.
  • It consists of a diffusion index that summarizes whether market conditions, as viewed by purchasing managers, are expanding, staying the same, or contracting.
  • The purpose of the PMI is to provide information about current and future business conditions to company decision makers, analysts, and investors.
  • In simple words, Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) is a measure of the prevailing direction of economic trends in manufacturing.
  • PMI is a survey-based measure that asks the respondents about changes in their perception about key business variables as compared with the previous month.
  • The purpose of the PMI is to provide information about current and future business conditions to company decision makers, analysts, and investors.
  • It is calculated separately for the manufacturing and services sectors and then a composite index is also constructed.
  • PMI is compiled by IHS Markit for more than 40 economies worldwide – IHS Markit is a global leader in information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide.

Understanding PMI

  • The PMI is a number from 0 to 100.
  • A print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction.
  • A reading at 50 indicates no change.
  • If PMI of the previous month is higher than the PMI of the current month, it represents that the economy is contracting.
  • It is usually released at the start of every month. It is, therefore, considered a good leading indicator of economic activity.
  • It is different from the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), which also gauges the level of activity in the economy.
  • IIP covers the broader industrial sector compared to PMI.
  • However, PMI is more dynamic compared to a standard industrial production index.

-Source: The Hindu


Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)


Context:

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) has undergone a significant shift in prevalence in India, as per a recent study published in the Lancet journal.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  2. Symptoms and Variability
  3. Causes and Factors
  4. Treatment Approaches

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) comprises a group of chronic inflammatory conditions that impact the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, causing inflammation and damage to the lining of the digestive system. This can lead to a variety of symptoms and complications.

Types of IBD:

Crohn’s Disease:

  • Affects any part of the GI tract, from mouth to anus.
  • Commonly involves the ileum (end of small intestine) and the colon (beginning of large intestine).
  • Inflammation can penetrate deep into bowel layers and may show skip lesions.

Ulcerative Colitis:

  • Impacts the colon and rectum.
  • Inflammation typically begins in the rectum and spreads continuously up the colon.
  • Ulcers form on the inner lining of the colon.

Symptoms and Variability:

IBD symptoms can vary in intensity and include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea (potentially bloody in ulcerative colitis)
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Rectal bleeding (common in ulcerative colitis)
  • Joint pain and inflammation
  • Skin problems

Causes and Factors:

  • The precise cause of IBD remains uncertain, but it’s linked to a weakened immune system.

Potential factors include:

  • Incorrect immune response to environmental triggers (viruses, bacteria), leading to GI tract inflammation.
  • Genetic predisposition, as individuals with a family history of IBD are more susceptible to the immune system’s inappropriate response.

Treatment Approaches:

  • While there’s no definitive cure for IBD, the condition’s symptoms and inflammation can be managed through various strategies:
  • Reducing inflammation and addressing symptoms are key goals.
  • Treatments may involve medications, surgical interventions, dietary modifications, and lifestyle changes.
  • The aim is to prevent flare-ups and heal both surface and deep inflammation in the intestines.

-Source: The Hindu


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