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Current Affairs 08 February 2024

  1. Workers safety in Hazardous Industries
  2. India-China trade reach record levels
  3. World’s Hottest January on record
  4. Uttarakhand Assembly passes Uniform Civil Code
  5. Indian Ocean Conference
  6. RBI keeps repo rate unchanged


Context:

Recently, a Firecracker factory explosion in Madhya Pradesh kills 11 people, leaving many injured.

Relevance:

GS-3 Industry and Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. MP Firecracker Tragedy
  2. Hazardous Industry
  3. Way Forward

MP Firecracker Tragedy:

  • The explosion in a firecracker industry in Madhya Pradesh’s Harda district led to the death of 11 people and left 174 injured.
  • The incident began with a blast inside a tin shed storing gunpowder, which was followed by a second blast of higher intensity.
  • Preliminary investigates states that the factory did not follow safety precautions and the building did not even have a fire extinguisher.

Hazardous Industry

  • Occasional accidents in an industry dealing in explosive materials may seem inevitable.
  • But the probability of such mishaps can certainly be reduced by adopting safe work practices, complying with rules and through cohesive monitoring by Central and State licensing and enforcement authorities.
  • Crackdowns against violators have been few and far between despite illegal sub-leasing of works to unlicensed cottage units becoming a widely acknowledged practice in the industry.

Way Forward

  • The Chaitanya Prasad Committee, which examined, among other things, statutory and administrative shortcomings that led to the death of 40 workers at Om Shakti Fireworks Industries in 2012, noted the “conspicuous absence” of proper inspection mechanisms at various government departments.
  • The committee recommended making sub-leasing of works by licensed units a cognisable penal offence; mandated inter-safety distances between sheds covered with earthen mounds; and provision of a smoothened pathway with a width of 1.5 metres, as part of industrial safety measures.
  • Ground reports suggest these recommendations continue to be ignored, with sub-leasing of works still rampant.
  • Regulators understandably complain of a lack of manpower in checking violations.
  • The number of players has exponentially grown since the 1980s with 1,070 licensed units employing an estimated 10 lakh workers now. But safety is non-negotiable.
  • The governments must walk the extra mile to enforce rules in a hazardous industry and prosecute violators.
  • The industry too must self-regulate in its own interest.

-Source: The Indian Express



Context:

The India and China bilateral trade hits record in 2023, which surpassed the figures in 2022.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (International trade), GS-II: International Relations (India and its Neighbors)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the latest data on India-China trade in 2023
  2. Understanding what we import and what we export to China
  3. India’s Dependence on Chinese Imports

Highlights of the latest data on India-China trade in 2023:

  • The bilateral trade between India and China has reached record levels in 2023, surpassing the figures in 2022.
  • In 2022, despite the continued bilateral tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), bilateral trade had reached a record $135.98, with imports from China surpassing $100 billion driven by a 21% rise in inbound shipments.
  • In 2023, China- India relations have shown a positive momentum of improvement,”
    • The bilateral trade volume reached $136.2 billion with a year-on-year growth of 1.5%.
    • India’s exports to China also increased by 6%.

Understanding what we import and what we export to China

  • India’s exports to China have risen and imports have fallen over the last few years and a closer look at the items traded between the two countries shows the unequal bilateral trade.
  • Trade numbers between 2014-15 and 2019-20 show that export of low-value raw materials and import of high-value manufactured goods has characterised India’s trade relationship with China, akin to the ties the country had with its colonial ruler Britain in the years before Independence, said trade experts.
  • This “colonial pattern” of trade has meant that India’s exports to China over the last six years have been only fifth in value of India’s imports from China.
  • While average exports from China have been around $13 billion in the six years 2014-20, the average value of imports from China has been $66 billion in the period.
  • India’s exports have ranged from food items like fish and spices to essential inputs like iron ores, granite stones, and petroleum products.
  • India’s major exports to China in the last six years were iron ore, petroleum fuels, organic chemicals, refined copper and cotton yarn. Among food items, some of the other major items exported were fish and seafood, pepper and vegetable oils and fats. Blocks of granite and other building stones and raw cotton were also among exports.
  • Its imports from China have been dominated by electrical machinery and equipment, and other mechanical appliances. India’s major imports from China have been of items like automatic data processing machines and units, telephone equipment and video phones, electronic circuits, transistors and semiconductor devices, antibiotics, heterocyclic compounds including nitrogen, fertilisers, sound recording devices and TV cameras, automobile components and accessories and project goods.

India’s Dependence on Chinese Imports

  • India must remember that even though its widening trade deficit with China remains an eyesore for policymakers, dependence on Chinese products has only grown year after year.
  • In 2019, Chinese imports alone accounted for 34% of all the foreign value-added in India’s exports, data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development shows. In 2009, this figure was just 1.8%.
  • Over the last decade, India’s dependence on China for inputs for the manufacture of drugs and consumer goods has shown a marked increase. All this will matter even more in this time of crisis after the coronavirus.
  • A strengthening anti-China sentiment and louder calls for self-reliance could actually go against India’s interests and economic logic.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The world just experienced its hottest January on record, a significant indicator of fuelling Climate Change.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Climate Change and its impact, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Conservation of the Environment)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key points
  2. Evolution of climate change
  3. Causes of Climate Change
  4. Global Warming

Key points:

  • As per the latest report by the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), January 2024 is the world’s warmest January on record.
  • Every month since June has been the world’s hottest on record, compared with the corresponding month in previous years.
  • The report stated that January 2024 is not only the warmest on record but also the world just experienced a 12-month period of more than 1.5 C (1.7 F) above the pre-industrial reference period.
  • It stressed the need for Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as the only way to stop global temperatures increasing.
  • The US scientists have also said that 2024 has a one-in-three chance of being even hotter than last year, and a 99% chance of ranking in the top five warmest years.

Evolution of climate change

  • India witnessed alternate wet and dry periods. Archaeological findings show that the Rajasthan desert experienced wet and cool climate around 8,000 B.C.
  • The period 3,000- 1,700 B.C. had higher rainfall. From about 2,000-1,700 B.C., this region was the centre of the Harappan civilisation. Dry conditions accentuated since then.
  • In the geological past, the earth was warm some 500-300 million years ago, through the Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian periods.
  • During the Pleistocene epoch, glacial and inter-glacial periods occurred, the last major peak glacial period was about 18,000 years ago.
  • The present inter-glacial period started 10,000 years ago.

Recent examples

  • The 1990s recorded the warmest temperature of the century and some of the worst floods around the world.
  • The worst devastating drought in the Sahel region, south of the Sahara desert, from 1967-1977 is one such variability.
  • During the 1930s, severe drought occurred in southwestern Great Plains of the United States, described as the dust bowl.

Causes of Climate Change

The causes for climate change are many. They can be grouped into

  1. Astronomical – [Sunspot activities and Volcanism]. The astronomical causes are the changes in solar output associated with sunspot activities.
  2. Terrestrial causes – [Green House gases, Pollution and aerosols, Ground level ozone]

Sunspots are dark and cooler patches on the sun which increase and decrease in a cyclical manner.

  • According to some meteorologists, when the number of sunspots increase, cooler and wetter weather and greater storminess occur.
  • A decrease in sunspot numbers is associated with warm and drier conditions

Volcanism is considered as another cause for climate change. Volcanic eruption throws up lots of aerosols into the atmosphere.

  • These aerosols remain in the atmosphere for a considerable period of time reducing the sun’s radiation reaching the Earth’s surface
  • The most important anthropogenic effect on the climate is the increasing trend in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which is likely to cause global warming.

Global Warming

  • Due to the presence of greenhouse gases, the atmosphere is behaving like a greenhouse.
  • The atmosphere also transmits the incoming solar radiation but absorbs the vast majority of long wave radiation emitted upwards by the earth’s surface.
  • The gases that absorb long wave radiation are called greenhouse gases.
  • The processes that warm the atmosphere are often collectively referred to as the greenhouse effect.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Recently, the Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Uniform Civil Code. The bill imposes common rules for all communities (excluding Scheduled Tribes) on marriage, divorce, inheritances, and live-in relationships.

  • The UCC is based on a draft submitted by a committee formed by the Uttarakhand government under the chairmanship of retired Supreme Court judge Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?
  2. Positive aspects of Uniform Civil Code include
  3. Challenges in Implementing Uniform Civil Code Include
  4. Does India not already have a UCC for civil matters?
  5. How does the idea of UCC relate to the Fundamental Right to religion?

What is Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?

  • The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India proposes to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in the country with a common set governing every citizen.
  • The constitution has a provision for Uniform Civil Code in Article 44 as a Directive Principle of State Policy which states that “The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.”

Article 44 is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy. These, as defined in Article 37, are not justiciable (not enforceable by any court) but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance.

Fundamental Rights are enforceable in a court of law. While Article 44 uses the words “state shall endeavour”, other Articles in the ‘Directive Principles’ chapter use words such as “in particular strive”; “shall in particular direct its policy”; “shall be obligation of the state” etc.

Article 43 mentions “state shall endeavour by suitable legislation”, while the phrase “by suitable legislation” is absent in Article 44. All this implies that the duty of the state is greater in other directive principles than in Article 44.

Positive aspects of Uniform Civil Code include

  • UCC will divest religion from social relations and personal laws and will ensure equality in terms of justice to both men and women regardless of the faith they practice.
  • There will be uniform laws for all Indians with regard to marriage, inheritance, divorce etc.
  • It will help in improving the condition of women in India as Indian society is mostly patriarchal
  • Informal bodies like caste panchayats give judgements based on traditional laws. UCC will ensure that legal laws are followed rather than traditional laws.
  • It can help in reducing instances of vote bank politics. If all religions are covered under same laws, politicians will have less to offer to communities in exchange of their vote.

Challenges in Implementing Uniform Civil Code Include

  • Implementation of UCC might interfere with the principle of secularism, particularly with the provisions of Articles 25 and 26, which guarantee freedom relating to religious practices.
  • Conservatism by religious groups, which resist such changes as it interferes with their religious practices.
  • It is difficult for the government to come up with a uniform law that is accepted by all religious communities. All religious groups- whether majority or minority have to support the change in personal laws.
  • Drafting of UCC is another obstacle. There is no consensus regarding whether it should be a blend of personal laws or should be a new law adhering to the constitutional mandate.

Does India not already have a uniform code in civil matters?

  • Indian laws do follow a uniform code in most civil matters — Indian Contract Act, Civil Procedure Code, Sale of Goods Act, Transfer of Property Act, Partnership Act, Evidence Act, etc.
  • States, however, have made hundreds of amendments and, therefore, in certain matters, there is diversity even under these secular civil laws. Recently, several states refused to be governed by the uniform Motor Vehicles Act, 2019.
  • If the framers of the Constitution had intended to have a Uniform Civil Code, they would have given exclusive jurisdiction to Parliament in respect of personal laws, by including this subject in the Union List. But “personal laws” are mentioned in the Concurrent List.
  • In 2020, the Law Commission concluded that a Uniform Civil Code is neither feasible nor desirable.

How does the idea of a Uniform Civil Code relate to the fundamental right to religion?

  • Article 25 lays down an individual’s fundamental right to religion; Article 26(b) upholds the right of each religious denomination or any section thereof to “manage its own affairs in matters of religion”; Article 29 defines the right to conserve distinctive culture. An individual’s freedom of religion under Article 25 is subject to “public order, health, morality” and other provisions relating to fundamental rights, but a group’s freedom under Article 26 has not been subjected to other fundamental rights.
  • In the Constituent Assembly, there was division on the issue of putting Uniform Civil Code in the fundamental rights chapter.
  • The matter was settled by a vote. By a 5:4 majority, the fundamental rights sub-committee headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel held that the provision was outside the scope of Fundamental Rights and therefore the Uniform Civil Code was made less important than freedom of religion.

-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express



Context:

External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar will address the inaugural session of the 7th Indian Ocean Conference that will be held on February 9, 2024.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About 7th Indian Ocean Conference
  2. About Indian Ocean Conference

About 7th Indian Ocean Conference:

  • India’s External Affairs Minister will address the inaugural session of the 7th Indian Ocean Conference to be held in Perth, Australia on February 9.
  • It is a flagship consultative forum for countries in the Indian Ocean Region, organized annually by the Ministry of External Affairs since 2016, in association with the India Foundation.
  • Theme: “Towards a Stable and Sustainable Indian Ocean”.
  • The Conference will feature Ministers from over 22 countries and senior officials from 16 countries and 6 multilateral organizations.

About Indian Ocean Conference

The Indian Ocean Conference (IOC) is an annual event that has been held since 2016, serving as a crucial platform for regional countries to engage in discussions on matters pertaining to the region. Here are the key points about the IOC:

Focus and Objectives:

  • The IOC concentrates on fostering regional cooperation under the framework of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).
  • It brings together key states and maritime partners in the Indian Ocean region to address pertinent issues.

Participants:

  • While the primary focus is on coastal countries of the Indian Ocean, the conference has expanded its scope to cover important global issues.
  • Dignitaries attending the conference include the President of Mauritius, Vice President of Maldives, and India’s External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar.
  • Foreign Ministers from Bhutan, Nepal, Bahrain, and Singapore, along with ministerial representatives from Seychelles, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar, are also expected to participate.
  • Around 150 foreign guests, including representatives from D8, SAARC, and BIMSTEC, are anticipated to attend.

Significance of the IOC:

  • The IOC holds significant importance in terms of strengthening partnerships with Indian Ocean countries, promoting regional political engagement, and facilitating decision-making during crisis situations.
  • It provides a platform for participating countries to discuss global events and make informed decisions regarding future actions.

-Source: All India Radio, The Hindu



Context:

The Reserve Bank of India, in its recently published bi-monthly monetary policy announced to keep the repo rate unchanged at 6.5 percent.

  • RBI has projected the inflation based on Consumer Price Index at 5.4 percent in the current fiscal and 4.5 percent during the next financial year.
  • RBI has pegged real GDP growth for the next financial year at 7 percent.
  • The government has mandated the central bank to ensure the retail inflation based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) remains at 4 per cent with a margin of 2 per cent on either side. 

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the repo rate?
  2. Why is the repo rate such a crucial monetary tool?
  3. How does the repo rate work?
  4. What impact can a repo rate change have on inflation?

What is the repo rate?

  • The repo rate is one of several direct and indirect instruments that are used by the RBI for implementing monetary policy.
  • Specifically, the RBI defines the repo rate as the fixed interest rate at which it provides overnight liquidity to banks against the collateral of government and other approved securities under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF).
  • In other words, when banks have short-term requirements for funds, they can place government securities that they hold with the central bank and borrow money against these securities at the repo rate.
  • Since this is the rate of interest that the RBI charges commercial banks such as State Bank of India and ICICI Bank when it lends them money, it serves as a key benchmark for the lenders to in turn price the loans they offer to their borrowers.

Why is the repo rate such a crucial monetary tool?

  • According to Investopedia, when government central banks repurchase securities from commercial lenders, they do so at a discounted rate that is known as the repo rate.
  • The repo rate system allows central banks to control the money supply within economies by increasing or decreasing the availability of funds.

How does the repo rate work?

  • Besides the direct loan pricing relationship, the repo rate also functions as a monetary tool by helping to regulate the availability of liquidity or funds in the banking system.
  • For instance,
    • When the repo rate is decreased,
      • Banks may find an incentive to sell securities back to the government in return for cash. This increases the money supply available to the general economy.
    • When the repo rate is increased,
      • Lenders would end up thinking twice before borrowing from the central bank at the repo window thus, reducing the availability of money supply in the economy.
  • Since inflation is, in large measure, caused by more money chasing the same quantity of goods and services available in an economy, central banks tend to target regulation of money supply as a means to slow inflation.

What impact can a repo rate change have on inflation?

  • Inflation can broadly be: mainly demand driven price gains, or a result of supply side factors that in turn push up the costs of inputs used by producers of goods and providers of services, thus spurring inflation, or most often caused by a combination of both demand and supply side pressures.
  • Changes to the repo rate to influence interest rates and the availability of money supply primarily work only on the demand side by making credit more expensive and savings more attractive and therefore dissuading consumption.
  • However, they do little to address the supply side factors, be it the high price of commodities such as crude oil or metals or imported food items such as edible oils.

-Source: All India Radio, The Hindu


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