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Current Affairs 09 December 2023

  1. Constitutional Challenge: Section 6A of Citizenship Act, 1955
  2. World Soil Day
  3. 91st Interpol General Assembly
  4. National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS)
  5. Pradhan Mantri Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (PM-USHA)
  6. Essential Services Maintenance Act
  7. Pashupatinath Temple


Context:

A Constitution Bench, under the leadership of the Chief Justice of India, is currently adjudicating multiple petitions that challenge the constitutionality of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955: An Overview
  2. Challenges to Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955
  3. Understanding Citizenship in India

Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955: An Overview

Legislative Background
  • Enacted as part of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1985.
  • Originated from the Assam Accord of 1985, a tripartite agreement among the Central Government, the Assam State Government, and leaders of the Assam Movement, aiming to address the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh.
Specifics of the Assam Accord
  • Signed in 1985, the Assam Accord introduced Section 6A exclusively for Assam in the Citizenship Act of 1955.
  • Primarily targeted the large-scale migration before the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
  • Mandates the detection and deportation of foreigners who entered Assam after March 25, 1971, the date of Bangladesh’s creation.
Historical Context
  • Reflects the unique historical and demographic challenges faced by Assam during the critical period preceding and following the Bangladesh Liberation War.
Provisions and Implications
  • Citizenship Status for Pre-1966 Migrants:
    • Persons of Indian origin arriving from Bangladesh before January 1, 1966, are deemed citizens of India as of that date.
  • Registration Requirement for 1966-1971 Migrants:
    • Individuals of Indian origin entering Assam between January 1, 1966, and March 25, 1971, detected as foreigners, needed to register.
    • Citizenship granted after 10 years of residence, subject to specific conditions.
  • Detection and Deportation for Post-1971 Entrants:
    • Persons entering Assam after March 25, 1971, were to be identified and deported in accordance with the law.

Challenges to Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955

Constitutional Validity Concerns

Article 6 Violation:

  • Petitioners contend that Section 6A may infringe on Article 6 of the Constitution.
  • Article 6 addresses the citizenship of individuals migrating from Pakistan during the partition, offering automatic citizenship to those who migrated before July 19, 1949.
  • Raises questions about the legal and constitutional validity of Section 6A.

Article 14 Implications:

  • Critics argue that Section 6A could violate Article 14, which guarantees the right to equality.
  • Perceived as discriminatory for singling out Assam with specific citizenship criteria.
  • Selective application sparks concerns about fairness compared to other states facing similar migration issues.
Demographic Impact Criticisms

Influx of Illegal Migrants:

  • Section 6A’s citizenship grant is criticized for allegedly contributing to an influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh into Assam.
  • Concerns about unintended consequences, encouraging illegal migration, and its impact on the state’s demographic composition.
  • Petitioners claim that recognizing individuals as citizens under Section 6A has perpetuated the issue by legitimizing their status.
Cultural Identity Concerns

Demographic Change and Cultural Impact:

  • Benefits provided to cross-border migrants between 1966 and 1971 are argued to have led to a radical demographic change.
  • Critics assert that this change has adversely affected the cultural identity of Assam.
  • Petitioners contend that the provisions of Section 6A have resulted in a significant cultural impact, contributing to a transformation that threatens the traditional identity of Assam.

Understanding Citizenship in India

Definition of Citizenship

Legal Status and Relationship:

  • Citizenship denotes the legal status and relationship between an individual and a state.
  • It involves specific rights and duties that individuals hold within the context of their association with a particular nation.
Constitutional Framework

Articles 5 to 11:

  • Constitutional provisions related to citizenship are outlined in Articles 5 to 11, found in Part II of the Constitution of India.
  • These articles cover various aspects of citizenship, including acquisition by birth, descent, naturalization, registration, relinquishment, and termination.

Union List Jurisdiction:

  • Citizenship is included in the Union List under the Constitution, placing it within the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament.
Legal Regulation: Citizenship Act, 1955
  • Parliament’s Role:
    • To regulate matters of citizenship, Parliament enacted the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • Amendments:
    • The Citizenship Act, 1955, has undergone six amendments since its enactment, occurring in 1986, 1992, 2003, 2005, 2015, and 2019.
  • Latest Amendment (2019):
    • The 2019 amendment introduced significant changes, granting citizenship to specific illegal migrants.
    • It extended citizenship to individuals from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Every year, the United Nations celebrates 5th December as World Soil Day.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. World Soil Day (WSD)
  2. Status of Nutrient Deficiency in Indian Soil

World Soil Day (WSD)

Commemoration and Origin:
  • Celebrated to honor the late King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, on his birthday.
  • Recognizes his lifelong commitment to raising awareness about sustainable soil management and rehabilitation for purposes such as food security and poverty alleviation.
  • Recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002.
Formal Recognition and Theme:
  • Formally established as a global awareness-raising platform by the UN General Assembly on December 5, 2014.
  • Theme for 2023: “Soil and Water, a Source of Life.”
Global Initiatives:
  • Supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  • Operates under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership.

Link Between Soil Micronutrients and Nutritional Status

Soil Composition and Micronutrients:
  • Soil composition directly influences levels of essential micronutrients like zinc and iron in crops.
  • Plants absorb these nutrients from the soil, and their availability impacts the micronutrient content in food.
Impact on Nutritional Status:
  • Low soil zinc levels linked to higher rates of stunting and underweight conditions in children.
    • Zinc is crucial for growth and immune system function.
  • Soil iron availability correlates with the prevalence of anemia.
    • Iron is essential for hemoglobin production, necessary for oxygen transport in the body.
Micronutrient Deficiencies:
  • Regions with soil lacking adequate zinc, iron, and other micronutrients are more likely to experience deficiencies in the population consuming crops grown in such soil.

Solutions for Micronutrient Enhancement

Zinc Application to Crops:
  • Application of zinc to crops on zinc-deficient soils increases yields significantly.
  • Yields of rice, wheat, maize, and oats improve by over 75% compared to applying only nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium fertilizer.
Zinc-Enriched Fertilizers:
  • Zinc-enriched fertilizers can enhance soil zinc for three to four years after application.
  • Offers an effective long-term intervention with less short-term maintenance compared to other solutions.

Status of Nutrient Deficiency in Indian Soil

Historical Trends:
  • Long-standing deficiency of nitrogen and phosphorus in India’s soil.
  • Potassium deficiency became more prevalent in the 1990s.
  • Sulphur deficiency emerged as a major problem in the 2000s.
Scientific Analysis:

Researchers and Samples:

  • Scientists associated with the All India Co-ordinated Research Project on Micro- and Secondary Nutrients and Pollutant Elements in Soils and Plants (AICRP-MSPE) conducted an analysis.
  • Analyzed 0.2 million soil samples from 28 states.
Specific Deficiencies:
  • Zinc Deficiency:
    • Approximately 36.5% of India’s soil is deficient in zinc.
  • Iron Deficiency:
    • About 12.8% of the country’s soil faces iron deficiency.
  • Other Micronutrients:
    • Boron Deficiency:
      • Found in 23.4% of soils.
    • Copper Deficiency:
      • Observed in 4.20% of soils.
    • Manganese Deficiency:
      • Affects 7.10% of soils.
Implications:
  • The findings indicate significant deficiencies in crucial micronutrients, which can impact agricultural productivity and, subsequently, food security in the affected regions.
  • Addressing Challenges:
  • Identifying and addressing these deficiencies is crucial for sustainable agriculture and ensuring optimal crop yields across the country.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the Indian delegation, led by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and National Investigation Agency (NIA), urged member countries to deny safe havens to crime, criminals, and the proceeds of crime at the 91st Interpol General Assembly held in Vienna, Austria.

Relevance:

GS III: Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the 91st Interpol General Assembly
  2. About Interpol

Key Highlights of the 91st Interpol General Assembly

Collaborative Initiatives
  • Financial Crime and Corruption:
    • Resolutions were passed during the assembly to enhance collaborative responses aimed at disrupting financial crime and corruption.
  • Online Child Sexual Exploitation:
    • Measures were adopted to intensify efforts in combating online child sexual exploitation, reflecting a commitment to safeguarding vulnerable individuals.
  • Promoting Diversity:
    • Resolutions aimed at promoting diversity within Interpol were passed, emphasizing the importance of inclusive representation.
Strategic Discussions
  • Coordinated Strategies:
    • Engagements involved discussions with law enforcement agencies from diverse countries.
    • Focus on formulating coordinated strategies to combat organized crime, terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, online radicalization, and cyber-enabled financial crimes.
  • Real-Time Prevention:
    • Advocacy for real-time prevention strategies to address and mitigate the impact of crimes discussed during the assembly.
Vision 2030 and Future Council
  • Adoption of Interpol’s Vision 2030:
    • The assembly supported the adoption of Interpol’s Vision 2030, indicating a forward-looking approach toward addressing evolving challenges in global security.
  • Establishment of Interpol Future Council:
    • The assembly contributed to the establishment of the Interpol Future Council, a platform likely focused on strategic foresight and long-term planning for Interpol’s role in international law enforcement.

About Interpol

  • The International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO), commonly known as INTERPOL, is an international organization that facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control.
  • Headquartered in Lyon, it has seven regional bureaus worldwide and a National Central Bureau in all 194 member states, making it the world’s largest police organization.
  • INTERPOL provides investigative support, expertise, and training to law enforcement worldwide, focusing on three major areas of transnational crime: terrorism, cybercrime, and organized crime.
  • Its broad mandate covers virtually every kind of crime, including crimes against humanity, child pornography, drug trafficking and production, political corruption, copyright infringement, and white-collar crime.
  • The agency also facilitates co-operation among national law enforcement institutions through criminal databases and communications networks.
  • Contrary to popular belief, INTERPOL is itself not a law enforcement agency.
  • INTERPOL is mostly funded by annual contributions by member police forces in 181 countries.
  • It is governed by a General Assembly, composed of all member countries, which elects the Executive Committee and the President.
  • Pursuant to its charter, INTERPOL seeks to remain politically neutral in fulfilling its mandate, as it is barred from interventions or activities of a political, military, religious, or racial nature or involving itself in disputes over such matters.
  • The agency operates in four languages: Arabic, English, French, and Spanish.
  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the nodal agency in the INTERPOL for India.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the Minister of State for Home Affairs informed the Rajya Sabha that the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) has been established at 1022 locations across the country.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is NAFIS?
  2. How does it work?
  3. Is this the first time that such an automation project is being attempted?

What is NAFIS?

  • It is conceptualized and managed by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)  at the Central Fingerprint Bureau (CFPB) in New Delhi,
  • The project is a country-wide searchable database of crime- and criminal-related fingerprints.
  • The web-based application functions as a central information repository by consolidating fingerprint data from all states and Union Territories.
Benefits of NAFIS
  • It enables law enforcement agencies to upload, trace, and retrieve data from the database in real time on a 24×7 basis.
  • It would help in the quick and easy disposal of cases with the help of a centralised fingerprint database.
How does it work?
  • NAFIS assigns a unique 10-digit National Fingerprint Number (NFN) to each person arrested for a crime.
  • This unique ID will be used for the person’s lifetime, and different crimes registered under different FIRs will be linked to the same NFN.
  • The 2020 report states that the ID’s first two digits will be that of the state code in which the person arrested for a crime is registered, followed by a sequence number.
  • By automating the collection, storage, and matching of fingerprints, along with digitizing the records of fingerprint data, NAFIS will provide the much-needed unique identifier for every arrested person in the CCTNS (Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems) database as both are connected at the backend
Is this the first time that such an automation project is being attempted?
  • Upon the recommendations of the National Police Commission in 1986, the Central Fingerprint Bureau first began to automate the fingerprint database by digitizing the existing manual records through India’s first Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFI) in 1992, called Fingerprint Analysis & Criminal Tracing System (FACTS 1.0)
  • The latest iteration, FACTS 5.0, which was upgraded in 2007, was considered to have “outlived its shelf life”, according to a 2018 report by the NCRB and thus needed to be replaced by NAFIS.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The Union Education Minister recently urged the Odisha Chief Minister to implement the PM-USHA scheme for higher education in the state.

Relevance:

GS II: Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. MoU Significance and State Concerns
  2. Pradhan Mantri Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (PM-USHA) Scheme
  3. Objective
  4. Key Features

MoU Significance and State Concerns

Importance of MoU:
  • The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) encompasses planning, execution, and assessment aspects, aligning State initiatives with the National Education Policy (NEP) for enhanced coordination.
  • The scheme fosters flexibility for States/Union Territories (UTs) to customize activities as per their requirements, optimizing resource allocation efficiency.
  • Furthermore, the scheme empowers States to identify priority districts based on metrics such as enrollment rates, gender parity, and the representation of marginalized communities.
State Concerns Raised:
  • Despite the MoU’s provisions, certain State governments have expressed dissatisfaction with its framework, citing unaddressed concerns.
  • The MoU lacks provisions for additional funding required to effectively implement NEP reforms.
  • States bear 40% of the expenses for the PM-USHA, yet the MoU fails to offer clear guidance on funding mechanisms for implementing NEP-related changes.

Pradhan Mantri Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (PM-USHA) Scheme

  • The PM-USHA scheme emerged in June 2023 as an evolution of the RUSA (Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan) scheme in alignment with the National Education Policy.
  • RUSA, which was originally introduced in October 2013, operates as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with the purpose of providing strategic funding to higher education institutions across India.
Focus Areas of PM-USHA:
  • Equity, Access, and Inclusion: The scheme aims to promote equity, enhance access, and foster inclusivity within the higher education system.
  • Quality Teaching and Learning: Enhancing the quality of teaching and learning processes is a central objective, ensuring students receive high-standard education.
  • Accreditation Enhancement: The scheme focuses on accrediting institutions that lack accreditation and improving the existing accreditation status of institutions.
  • ICT-based Digital Infrastructure: Modernizing educational infrastructure through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) plays a significant role.
  • Multidisciplinary Employability: The scheme works towards boosting employability by fostering multidisciplinary approaches to education.

Objective:

  • The primary objectives of the Pradhan Mantri Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (PM-USHA) scheme are as follows:
  • Enhance the quality of existing state higher educational institutions, ensuring compliance with prescribed norms, standards, and accreditation as a quality assurance mechanism.
  • Implement governance, academic, and examination reforms in state higher educational institutions.
  • Establish connections between school education, the job market, and higher education institutions to encourage self-reliance and contribute to building an Atma-Nirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).
  • Foster a conducive environment for research and innovation in higher educational institutions.

Key Features:

  • MERU Transformation: The scheme supports 35 accredited state universities by providing each with Rs 100 crore to facilitate multidisciplinary education and research.
  • Model Degree Colleges: Provisions are made for establishing new model degree colleges under the scheme.
  • University Enhancement: Grants are allocated to strengthen universities, enhancing their overall capabilities.
  • Focus on Remote and Aspirational Areas: PM-USHA particularly targets regions with limited access to education, Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas, aspirational districts, and regions with low Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER).
  • Gender Inclusion and Equity Support: The scheme assists state governments in promoting gender inclusion, equity, and skill upgrading for improved employability through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Odisha Government recently invoked the Orissa Essential Services (Maintenance) Act (ESMA) prohibiting strikes by paramedical staff, including nurses, pharmacists, technicians, Class III and IV employees, to ensure that medical services are not disrupted.

Relevance:

GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA)
  2. Actions Against Employees

Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA)

Introduction:
  • Enacted by the Indian Parliament in 1968.
  • Aimed at ensuring the uninterrupted supply of critical services essential for people’s daily lives.
Enforcement Objectives:

Prohibition of Strikes:

  • Prohibits employees in certain essential services from engaging in strikes that can disrupt essential services.
  • Employees cannot use bandhs or curfews as excuses to avoid reporting to work.
Covered Essential Services:
  • Public Services:
    • Services related to public conservation, sanitation, water supply, hospitals, and national defense.
  • Production and Distribution:
    • Establishments involved in the production, delivery, or distribution of petroleum, coal, electricity, steel, fertilizers, and banking-related services.
  • Communication and Transportation:
    • Covers communication and transportation services.
  • Government Initiatives:
    • Applicable to government initiatives related to the acquisition and distribution of food grains.
Enforcement by States:

State-Specific Implementation:

  • State governments, either individually or in collaboration with other states, can enforce ESMA within specified territories.
  • Each state has its own version of ESMA with provisions slightly differing from the federal statute.
  • Allows states to choose essential services on which to enforce ESMA.
Central Government Activation:

Nationwide Interruptions:

  • In cases of nationwide interruptions, especially involving railways, the central government can activate ESMA.

Actions Against Employees:

  • Disciplinary Action:
    • Persons initiating or participating in a strike are liable to disciplinary action, including dismissal.
  • Legal Consequences:
    • Strikes become illegal after ESMA is invoked, allowing legal action against participating employees.
  • Arrest Powers:
    • Police officers are empowered to arrest striking individuals without a warrant.
  • Penalties:
    • Individuals participating or instigating the strike can face imprisonment up to one year, a fine, or both.
National Significance:
  • ESMA plays a crucial role in maintaining essential services, ensuring the smooth functioning of critical sectors, and addressing disruptions that could adversely impact public life.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The sale and consumption of meat, alcohol, and other intoxicants have been restricted around the Pashupatinath Temple area due to the Hindu festival of Bala Chaturdashi.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Pashupatinath Temple
  2. Pagoda

Pashupatinath Temple

  • A Hindu temple dedicated to Pashupati, a form of Shiva.

Location:

  • Situated on the bank of the Bagmati River on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal.

UNESCO World Heritage Site:

  • Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Features:
  • Temple Complex:
    • Encompasses 518 temples, buildings, and structures.
  • Main Temple:
    • Designed in the Nepalese pagoda style with a tiered roof and plinth.
    • A two-tiered structure with a gold-plated roof.
    • Houses the Pashupatinath idol in two interior rooms.
    • Cubic structure with four main doors covered with silver sheets.
  • Nandi Statue:
    • Noteworthy golden statue of Nandi, Shiva’s bull, adds to the temple’s grandeur.

Pagoda

  • A tower-like, multistory structure made of stone, brick, or wood.
  • Commonly associated with Buddhist temple complexes.

Origins and Form:

  • Derives from the stupa, an ancient Indian hemispherical, domed commemorative monument.

Construction:

  • Comprises three sections: a base, a body, and a top.
  • Central staircase is a common feature.
  • Can take various forms, often incorporating a miniature pagoda at the top.

Geographical Prevalence:

  • Commonly found in China, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia.

Symbolism:

  • Represents spiritual and architectural significance in Buddhist traditions.
  • Varied forms and styles contribute to the rich cultural heritage of the regions where pagodas are prevalent.

-Source: The Hindu


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