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Current Affairs 07 June 2024

  1. Special Category Status
  2. India Seeks WTO Arbitration Against Australia
  3. Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954
  4. Cassini Mission and Milgromian Dynamics
  5. Impact of Colour on Contemporary Human Life
  6. PraVaHa Software
  7. UNESCO State of Ocean Report


Context:

With the General Elections throwing up a fractured mandate, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party are set to play a key role in government formation at the Centre. Consequently, their past demands for special category status (SCS) for Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, respectively, are back in focus. This development highlights the intricacies of coalition politics and the potential influence of regional parties on national policy-making.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Special Category Status (SCS)?
  2. Why Bihar and Andhra Pradesh (AP) Are Demanding SCS and Its Feasibility?

What is Special Category Status (SCS)?

Criteria for Eligibility:
  • States must meet specific conditions based on the Gadgil formula:
  • Possession of hilly and challenging terrain.
  • Low population density and/or a significant proportion of tribal population.
  • Strategic location along borders with neighboring countries.
  • Economic and infrastructural backwardness.
  • Non-viable state finances.
Historical Context:
  • Introduced in 1969 following the recommendations of the Fifth Finance Commission, chaired by Mahavir Tyagi, to support backward states.
  • Initially granted to Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, and Nagaland.
  • Formalized in April 1969 with the approval of the Gadgil formula by the National Development Council (NDC).
  • Subsequently, more states received SCS upon attaining statehood, including:
  • Himachal Pradesh (1970-71), Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura (1971-72), Sikkim (1975-76), Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram (1986-87), Uttarakhand (2001-02).
  • Currently, 11 states hold SCS, including Assam, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Uttarakhand, and Telangana.
  • Telangana, India’s newest state, received SCS due to financial impacts from its separation from Andhra Pradesh.
  • States like Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, along with Odisha, are also demanding SCS.
Benefits of SCS:
  • Central assistance of up to 90% in grants and 10% in loans for centrally sponsored schemes.
  • For non-SCS, Central Assistance is 30% grant and 70% loan.
  • Special Plan Assistance for projects of special importance to the state.
  • Unspent funds do not lapse at the end of the financial year.
  • Tax concessions, although many tax benefits are now integrated into the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.

Why Bihar and Andhra Pradesh (AP) Are Demanding SCS and Its Feasibility?

Bihar’s Demand:
  • Bihar has sought SCS since the mineral-rich region of Jharkhand was separated from it in 2000.
  • According to the Centre’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report, Bihar is recognized as the poorest state in India.
  • Nearly 52% of Bihar’s population lacks adequate access to essential health, education, and living standards.
  • Although Bihar meets most of the SCS criteria, it does not satisfy the conditions of having hilly terrain and geographically challenging areas.
Andhra Pradesh’s Demand:
  • Following the state’s bifurcation in 2014, the UPA government at the Centre had pledged to grant SCS to AP to offset the loss of revenue and the development hub of Hyderabad.
  • Presently, AP is predominantly an agrarian state with low economic buoyancy, leading to significant revenue challenges.
  • SCS would result in increased grants-in-aid from the Centre. For example, per capita grants to SCS states amount to Rs 5,573 crore per year, whereas AP receives only Rs 3,428 crore.
Feasibility and Financial Considerations:
  • The 14th Finance Commission observed that granting SCS was a strain on the Centre’s resources, a reason cited by the central government for not extending SCS to more states.
  • To address the resource gap without granting SCS, tax devolution to states was increased to 42% as recommended by the 14th Finance Commission, and maintained at 41% by the 15th Finance Commission.
  • With the 16th Finance Commission now in place and working on tax devolution formulas for the five-year period beginning April 1, 2026, providing special category status to Bihar and AP could become a more manageable task.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

India has sought arbitration proceedings under the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules against Australia to resolve an issue concerning the services sector, as it could impact India’s trade in services.

Relevance:

GS III: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Concerns Raised by India Against Australia
  2. WTO Dispute Settlement Process Overview
  3. The Appellate Body

Concerns Raised by India Against Australia

Joint Statement Initiatives (JSIs):
  • In February 2024, over 70 WTO countries met in Abu Dhabi and agreed to adopt additional obligations under Joint Statement Initiatives (JSIs) as part of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). This aims to facilitate non-goods trade among themselves while offering similar concessions to other WTO members.
  • The GATS agreement, effective since 1995, includes India as a long-standing member.
  • These new obligations are designed to reduce unintended trade barriers related to licensing, qualification requirements, and technical standards.
  • Indian professional companies are expected to benefit from equal access to markets in these 70 countries, provided they meet the required standards.
  • This initiative is projected to reduce services trade costs by 10% for lower-middle-income economies and by 14% for upper-middle-income economies, resulting in total savings of USD 127 billion.
Opposition to Joint Statement Initiatives (JSIs):
  • The Abu Dhabi agreement is a plurilateral deal, involving only 72 out of 164 WTO members.
  • India, South Africa, and several other WTO members have not agreed to this deal. India, along with other developing nations, opposes various JSIs as they are not negotiated by all WTO members.
  • Experts caution that integrating JSIs into the WTO could weaken the organization and lead to the adoption of many more such initiatives in areas like investments, MSMEs, gender issues, and e-commerce.
  • Australia’s commitment to its obligations under a JSI is a significant issue in the dispute.
The Australia Case:
  • In 2023, Australia informed the WTO of its intention to modify its specific commitments under the GATS to include additional regulations related to services.
  • India, as an “affected member,” has expressed that Australia’s proposed modifications do not meet certain conditions.
  • Despite negotiations between India and Australia, no agreement was reached.

WTO Dispute Settlement Process Overview:

Initiation of Disputes:
  • Disputes commence with a mandatory dialogue between the complaining and defending parties, aimed at resolving issues amicably.
  • These discussions are time-bound, with the goal of achieving a mutually satisfactory resolution.
Formation of Dispute Panels:
  • Should discussions fail, the complainant may escalate the issue by requesting the formation of a dispute settlement panel overseen by the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB).
  • The DSB, functioning under the General Council, is empowered to:
    • Establish panels,
    • Direct disputes to arbitration,
    • Formalize panel and arbitration outcomes,
    • Ensure compliance with recommendations,
    • Enforce suspensions of concessions for non-compliance.
Panel Process:
  • Panels, comprising neutral experts in trade law, assess the dispute, evaluate both sides’ arguments, and generate a detailed report.
  • This report, outlining facts, legal interpretations, and suggested resolutions, is shared with all WTO members for feedback.
  • Unless unanimously rejected within 60 days, the report is ratified as the DSB’s decision.

The Appellate Body:

Establishment and Function:

  • Formed in 1995 under DSU Article 17, this permanent body comprises seven members with four-year terms, based in Geneva.
  • It reviews, amends, or overturns panel findings as needed.
  • Its decisions, once ratified by the DSB, are binding on all dispute parties.

Implementation and Enforcement:

Compliance:

  • Members found in violation are expected to align their practices with WTO standards.
  • Failure to comply allows the aggrieved party to request punitive actions like suspension of concessions.
Challenges with the Dispute Mechanism:

Operational Hurdles:

  • The U.S. has consistently obstructed the appointment of new members to the Appellate Body, significantly hampering its functionality.
  • In response, developing nations advocate for a revival of the mechanism to its full capacity to ensure effective checks and balances.
  • Options for these countries include participating in the EU-led Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA), adopting a compromised appellate framework, or reinstating the original appellate structure with a selective opt-out feature.

-Source: Economic Times



Context:

The Madhya Pradesh High Court’s recent decision regarding the marriage of a Muslim man and a Hindu woman, registered under the Special Marriage Act (SMA), has attracted significant attention. The court dismissed the couple’s petition for protection and assistance in registering their marriage, citing incompatibility with personal laws. A ‘registered marriage’ under the SMA is a civil marriage, solemnized in a registrar’s office without religious rituals.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Recent Judgement of the MP High Court?
  2. About Special Marriage Act, 1954
  3. Applicability of the Act
  4. The Section of SMA which is being contested

What is the Recent Judgement of the MP High Court?

  • The petitioners contended that they intended to marry under the Special Marriage Act, making the Islamic Nikah ceremony redundant, and wished to retain their respective religions without the Hindu petitioner converting to Islam.
  • However, the High Court noted that according to Mahomedan law, the marriage between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman is invalid. Even if such a marriage is registered under the Special Marriage Act, it remains considered irregular.
  • The court emphasized that personal laws take precedence over the Special Marriage Act in this matter and thus dismissed the couple’s petition.

About Special Marriage Act, 1954

  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to provide a special form of marriage for the people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party.
  • Marriages solemnized under Special Marriage Act are not governed by personal laws.

The Act has 3 major objectives:

  • to provide a special form of marriage in certain cases,
  • to provide for registration of certain marriages and,
  • to provide for divorce.
Applicability of the Act
  • Any person, irrespective of religion.
  • Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, or Jews can also perform marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
  • Inter-religion marriages are performed under this Act.
  • This Act is applicable to the entire territory of India and extends to intending spouses who are both Indian nationals living abroad.
  • Indian national living abroad.
Succession to the property
  • Succession to the property of person married under this Act or customary marriage registered under this Act and that of their children, are governed by Indian Succession Act.
  • However, if the parties to the marriage are Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religion, the succession to their property will be governed by Hindu succession Act.
  • The Hindu Marriage Act is pertinent to Hindus, though the Special Marriage Act is appropriate to all residents of India regardless of their religion applicable at Court marriage.
The Section of SMA which is being contested
  • Under Sections 5 and 6 of the SMA, the parties wishing to marry are supposed to give a notice for their marriage to the Marriage Officer in an area where one of the spouses has been living for the last 30 days. Then, the marriage officer publishes the notice of marriage in his office.
  • Anyone having any objection to the marriage can file against it within a period of 30 days. If any such objection against the marriage is sustained by the marriage officer, the marriage can be rejected.
Differentiation from Personal Laws:
  • Personal laws, such as the Muslim Marriage Act and the Hindu Marriage Act, require religious conversion of either spouse before marriage.
  • The Special Marriage Act allows inter-faith or inter-caste marriages without conversion.
  • However, individuals married under the SMA lose certain rights, such as inheritance rights.
Issues Related to SMA:
  • Couples can face objections and harassment in the process of getting married under the SMA.
  • In January 2021, the Allahabad HC ruled that couples can choose not to publish the mandatory 30-day notice of their intention to marry to avoid delays and harassment.
  • The requirement for publication of notices can be a violation of privacy as it discloses personal information about the couple.
  • Inter-caste or inter-religious marriages are still stigmatized in many parts of India, and couples who marry under the SMA may face discrimination from their families and communities.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The findings of the Cassini mission, which orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017, provided an opportunity to test Milgromian dynamics (MOND) – an alternative theory to dark matter.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Dark Matter?
  2. MOND Theory: An Alternative to Dark Matter
  3. Current Perspective
  4. Cassini Spacecraft Overview

What is Dark Matter?

  • Dark matter, similar to ordinary matter, occupies space and possesses mass. However, it does not reflect, absorb, or emit light to a degree that we can detect yet.
  • Scientists have estimated that dark matter constitutes about 27% of the universe, but its exact nature remains a mystery.
  • Researchers hypothesize that dark matter forms a vast, web-like structure throughout the cosmos.
  • This structure acts as a gravitational scaffold, attracting most of the ordinary matter in the universe.
  • It is established that dark matter is not made up of known particles, and the quest to identify its components continues.

MOND Theory: An Alternative to Dark Matter

Background and Proposition:
  • One of the significant puzzles in astrophysics is why galaxies rotate faster than Newton’s laws of gravity predict based on their visible matter.
  • The concept of dark matter was introduced to explain this discrepancy.
  • Despite being a widely accepted theory, dark matter has not been directly observed and does not align perfectly with the Standard Model of particle physics.
  • To address this issue, Israeli physicist Mordehai Milgrom proposed an alternative theory called Milgromian Dynamics (MOND) in 1982.
Key Concepts of MOND Theory:
  • MOND suggests that Newton’s laws fail under very weak gravitational fields, such as those at the edges of galaxies.
  • The theory has shown some success in predicting galaxy rotation without invoking dark matter, although many of these successes can also be attributed to dark matter while preserving Newton’s laws.
  • MOND affects gravity at low accelerations rather than specific distances.
  • Consequently, MOND’s effects, typically observed several thousand light years from a galaxy, could also be significant at much shorter distances, like in the outer Solar System.
Testing and Evidence Against MOND:
  • The Cassini mission, which orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017, provided a chance to test MOND.
  • MOND predicts subtle deviations in Saturn’s orbit due to the galaxy’s gravity, given Saturn’s 10 AU orbit around the Sun.
  • Cassini’s measurements of the Earth-Saturn distance using radio pulses showed no anomalies expected by MOND.
  • Newton’s laws remain valid for Saturn, challenging MOND’s credibility.
Additional Challenges to MOND:
  • More evidence against MOND comes from wide binary stars.
  • A study demonstrated that MOND’s prediction of faster orbits was highly improbable, akin to flipping heads 190 times consecutively.
  • MOND also fails to explain the specific energy distribution and orbital inclinations of comets in the outer Solar System.
  • Newtonian gravity is more accurate than MOND for distances below a light year.
  • MOND is less effective at larger scales, like galaxy clusters, where it predicts too little central gravity and too much at the outskirts. Newtonian gravity with dark matter aligns better with observed data.

Current Perspective:

  • Despite some issues with the standard dark matter model, such as the universe’s expansion rate and cosmic structures, MOND is not considered a viable alternative.
  • Dark matter remains the leading explanation, although its true nature may differ from current models, or gravity might exhibit stronger effects on very large scales.

Cassini Spacecraft Overview

Mission Background:

  • Cassini-Huygens was a collaborative space mission involving NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) with the goal of exploring Saturn.

Launch Date:

  • Launched on October 15, 1997, the Cassini-Huygens mission aimed to provide comprehensive insights into Saturn and its moons.

Components:

  • The mission comprised NASA’s Cassini orbiter, marking the first space probe to orbit Saturn, and the ESA’s Huygens probe, which successfully landed on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
Spacecraft Details:
  • Cassini-Huygens was one of the largest interplanetary spacecraft.
  • The Cassini orbiter, weighing 2,125 kg (4,685 pounds), measured 6.7 meters (22 feet) in length and 4 meters (13 feet) in width.
  • Instruments onboard Cassini included radar for mapping Titan’s cloud-covered surface and a magnetometer for studying Saturn’s magnetic field.
  • The disk-shaped Huygens probe, mounted on Cassini, weighed 349 kg (769 pounds), was 2.7 meters (8.9 feet) across, and carried six instruments for studying Titan’s atmosphere and surface.
Mission Highlights:
  • Orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017, completing 294 orbits around the planet.
  • Provided extensive knowledge about Saturn, including the structure of its atmosphere and rings, and their interactions with the planet’s moons.
  • Discovered six named moons and identified Enceladus and Titan as promising locations to search for extraterrestrial life.
  • Cassini played a pivotal role in advancing our understanding of the Saturnian system and contributed significantly to planetary exploration.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Colour profoundly shapes contemporary human life by enriching the aesthetic and symbolic aspects of our surroundings, embracing cultural diversity in its interpretation, and deepening our comprehension of the world and our role within it.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding Colour
  2. What are LEDs?

Understanding Colour

What is Colour?

Colour is a form of information that our eyes interpret based on electromagnetic radiation. Objects themselves don’t inherently possess colour; instead, they appear coloured because they absorb, reflect, and/or scatter certain frequencies of visible light, which our brains then perceive as specific colours.

How Do Humans Perceive Colours?
  • The human eye contains rod and cone cells that receive light information.
  • Rod cells are responsible for detecting brightness.
  • Cone cells are responsible for detecting wavelengths, which the brain interprets as colour.
  • Humans have three types of cone cells, each sensitive to different wavelengths of light, allowing for trichromatic vision.
  • The presence of three types of cone cells is why humans are referred to as trichromats.
  • Birds and reptiles often have four types of cone cells, making them tetrachromats.
  • Human vision is limited to wavelengths from 400 nm to 700 nm (visible light), while some insects, like honeybees and mosquitoes, can perceive ultraviolet and infrared light, respectively.

Science of Colours:
  • Traditional Colour Theory: Until the late 19th century, this theory focused on how dyes, pigments, and inks could be mixed to create other colours using three primary colours (red, yellow, and blue).
  • Modern Colour Theory: Modern science rejects the notion of three fixed primary colours. Instead, it focuses on the gamut of colours that can be produced by combining any three colours in different ways. Each combination creates a specific colour space, but no colour space can encompass the full range of colours visible to the human eye.
Rendering of Colours:
  • Additive Colouring: This method involves mixing light of different wavelengths to create various colours. The RGB colour space (red, green, blue) is a common example, where these three colours are combined in varying intensities to produce other colours.
  • Subtractive Colouring: This method creates colours by subtracting certain wavelengths from white light using dyes, pigments, or inks. For example, when a cloth is dyed, the dye absorbs specific wavelengths of light, leaving the remaining wavelengths to render the perceived colour.
Properties of Colour:
  • Hue: Defined as the degree to which a colour can be described as similar to or different from standard colours like red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Complementary colours combine to produce a grayscale colour.
  • Brightness: Related to an object’s luminance, which is the power emitted per unit area weighted by wavelength. The perceived brightness is how the eye interprets this power.
  • Lightness: Refers to how light or dark a colour appears compared to a well-lit white object.
  • Chromaticity: The quality of a colour regardless of its brightness, focusing on its purity and intensity.

What are LEDs?

  • A light-emitting diode (LED) is a semiconductor device that emits light when an electric current passes through it. Light is produced when electrons and holes combine within the semiconductor material.
What are Blue LEDs?
  • Blue LED light is emitted within the visible light spectrum at wavelengths between 400 to 500 nm, situated between violet and green on the spectrum.
  • Blue LEDs have an active region with InGaN quantum wells sandwiched between GaN cladding layers. Adjusting the In/Ga ratio in the quantum wells can theoretically change the light emission from violet to amber.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) recently developed Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software named PraVaHa.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Overview of PraVaHa Software
  2. CFD’s Role in Aerospace

Overview of PraVaHa Software

What is PraVaHa Software?
  • Full Name: Parallel RANS Solver for Aerospace Vehicle Aero-thermo-dynamic Analysis (PraVaHa).
  • Developed By: ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).
  • Type: Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software.
  • Capabilities: Simulates external and internal flows on launch vehicles, including both winged and non-winged re-entry vehicles.
Key Features and Applications:
  • Extensive Use: Utilized in the Gaganyaan program for aerodynamic analysis of human-rated launch vehicles, such as HLVM3, Crew Escape System (CES), and Crew Module (CM).
  • Collaboration: Secure and flexible for collaborative development with academic institutions and government labs.
  • Operational Status: Currently operational for simulating airflow under Perfect Gas and Real Gas conditions.
  • Future Enhancements: Undergoing validations to simulate chemical reactions during air dissociation upon ‘earth re-entry’ and ‘combustion’ in scramjet vehicles.
  • Replacement Potential: Expected to replace most CFD simulations for aero characterisation currently done using commercial software.
  • Educational and Research Utility: Aids academia and other institutions in designing missiles, aircraft, and rockets to solve complex aerodynamic problems.
Importance of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD):
  • Design Studies: Initial aerodynamic design studies for launch vehicles require evaluating numerous configurations.
  • Aerodynamic and Aerothermal Loads: Aerospace vehicles during launch or re-entry face severe aerodynamic and aerothermal loads in terms of external pressure and heat flux.
  • Airflow Understanding: Essential to understand airflow around aircraft, rocket bodies, or Crew Modules (CM) during earth re-entry to design the necessary shape, structure, and Thermal Protection System (TPS).
  • Unsteady Aerodynamics: Contributes to significant flow issues around rocket bodies, generating substantial acoustic noise during missions.
  • Predictive Tool: CFD predicts aerodynamic and aerothermal loads by numerically solving the equations of conservation of mass, momentum, and energy, along with the equation of state.
Importance and Benefits

PraVaHa’s Impact:

  • Advanced Simulations: Enables advanced and accurate simulations crucial for the design and analysis of modern aerospace vehicles.
  • Collaborative Development: Its secure and flexible nature supports collaborative projects between academic and governmental research institutions.
  • Cost-Effective: Potentially reduces dependency on expensive commercial CFD software by providing an in-house alternative.

CFD’s Role in Aerospace:

  • Design Optimization: Critical in optimizing the design and safety of aerospace vehicles.
  • Performance Prediction: Helps in predicting vehicle performance under various atmospheric conditions, ensuring mission success.
  • Research and Innovation: Facilitates research and innovation in aerodynamics, contributing to advancements in aerospace technology.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

UNESCO’s ‘State of Ocean Report, 2024’ provides crucial insights into the current state of global oceans, emphasising the challenges posed by climate change and human activities.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

UNESCO State of Ocean Report Overview

Introduction:
  • Initiation: The UNESCO ‘State of the Ocean Report’ was initiated by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) at the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference.
  • Purpose: Provides an accessible overview of the current state of the oceans.
Support and Objectives:
  • UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030): The report supports this initiative and encourages actions for a sustainable ocean future.
  • Inaugural Edition (2022): Featured insights from over 100 marine science experts on topics like ocean acidification, pollution, and tsunami warning.
  • Annual Editions: Released on World Oceans Day (June 8), aligning with the seven outcomes of the UN Ocean Decade.
Key Findings:
  • Ocean Warming: The upper 2,000 meters of the oceans have significantly warmed, with the rate increasing from 0.32 ± 0.03 watt per square meter (W/m²) between 1960 and 2023 to 0.66 ± 0.10 W/m² in the past two decades.
  • Energy Absorption: Oceans are absorbing about 90% of the Earth’s excess energy, leading to increased deoxygenation, which threatens marine ecosystems and human economies.
  • Ocean Acidification: Globally on the rise, particularly in the open ocean, with a noted pH decline since the late 1980s. More comprehensive data from coastal areas is necessary.
  • Rising Sea Levels: Sea levels have consistently risen since 1993, highlighting the need for improved monitoring systems at all scales.
Emerging Interests:
  • Marine Carbon Dioxide Removal (mCDR) Technologies: There is growing interest in mCDR technologies, although their ecological impacts and effectiveness are still uncertain.

-Source: Down To Earth


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