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Current Affairs 11 May 2023

CONTENTS

  1. RBI Gold Reserves
  2. Cyclone Mocha
  3. Forest Fires
  4. Law on polygamy among religious groups in India
  5. India’s delayed implementation of mandatory Drug Recall Law
  6. Coco Islands

RBI Gold Reserves


Context:

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) gold reserves touched 794.64 metric tonnes in fiscal 2023, an increase of nearly 5 per cent over fiscal 2022, when it held 760.42 metric tonnes of gold.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. RBI Gold Reserves: Total and Recent Purchases
  2. RBI’s Motivation for Hoarding Gold
  3. Main Banks Buying Gold

RBI Gold Reserves: Total and Recent Purchases

Total Reserves:
  • RBI holds 437.22 tonnes of gold overseas with the Bank of England and the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), and 301.10 tonnes domestically.
  • As of March 31, 2023, India’s total forex reserves were $578.449 billion, with gold reserves at $45.2 billion.
  • The value of gold in the total forex reserves increased to about 7.81% at the end of March 2023.
Recent Purchase:
  • RBI purchased 34.22 tonnes of gold in FY 23 and 65.11 tonnes in fiscal 2022.
  • From FY 2019 to FY 2021, RBI’s gold reserves were 228.41 tonnes.
  • The RBI is one of the top five central banks buying gold, according to the World Gold Council’s regional CEO for India.

RBI’s Motivation for Hoarding Gold

  • When the RBI has foreign currency in its reserves, it invests them to purchase US Government bonds and earn interest.
  • However, the real interest on these bonds has turned negative due to the rise in inflation in the US.
  • During such inflationary periods, demand for gold has increased, and holding gold can provide good returns even in stressed economic situations.
  • Due to uncertainties arising from geopolitical conflicts like Russia-Ukraine and US-China, there has been a decline in the acceptance of the US dollar by some prominent global suppliers of goods.
  • Holding dollars can lead to losses for the RBI if they depreciate against other currencies.
  • Gold, with its intrinsic value and limited supply, can retain its value longer than other currencies.
  • Gold is a safer, more secure, and more liquid asset that performs well during times of crisis and serves as a long-term store of value.
  • Gold has a transparent international price and can be traded anytime.

Main Banks Buying Gold

  • According to the WGC, central banks of emerging market economies are the main buyers of gold.
  • The People’s Bank of China (PBoC) reported the first increase in its gold reserves since September 2019 in 2022, with total purchases of 62 tonnes in November and December.
  • The Central Bank of Turkey reported the largest buying in 2022, with its gold reserves rising by 148 tonnes to 542 tonnes, the highest level on record.
  • Central banks from the Middle East, including Egypt, Qatar, Iraq, the UAE, and Oman significantly boosted their gold reserves in 2022.
  • The Central Bank of Uzbekistan ended 2022 as a net purchaser of gold, with its gold reserves rising by 34 tonnes.
  • In January-March 2023, the Monetary Authority of Singapore was the largest single buyer of gold, adding 69 tonnes to its gold reserves.
  • The WGC expects central bank buying of gold to remain robust in the short term.

-Source: Indian Express


Cyclone Mocha


Context:

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned of a developing cyclonic or low-pressure area in the Bay of Bengal. It would be named Cyclone Mocha (pronounced ‘Mokha’).

Relevance:

GS-I: Geography (Physical geography – Climatology, Important Geophysical phenomena), GS-III: Disaster Management

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Tropical Cyclones?
  2. Conditions for cyclone formation:
  3. How are Tropical Cyclones Formed?
  4. Why tropical cyclones don’t form in the eastern tropical oceans?
  5. Names of Tropical Cyclones
  6. Structure of the tropical cyclone
  7. Landfall, what happens when a Cyclone reaches land from the ocean?
  8. Cyclone Management in India

What are Tropical Cyclones?

  • The Tropical Cyclones are violent storms that originate over oceans in tropical areas and move over to coastal areas bringing about large-scale destruction caused by violent winds, very heavy rainfall and storm surges.
  • These are low pressure weather systems in which winds equal or exceed speeds of 62kmph.
  • Winds circulate around in anti-clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and in clockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • “Tropical” refers to the geographical origin of these systems, which form almost exclusively over tropical seas.
  • “Cyclone” refers to their winds moving in a circle, whirling round their central clear eye, with their winds blowing counter clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • The opposite direction of circulation is due to the Coriolis effect.
Tropical Cyclones in India
  • Tropical cyclones striking India generally originate in the eastern side of India.
  • Bay of Bengal is more prone to cyclone than Arabian Sea because it gets high sea surface temperature, low vertical shear winds and has enough moisture in middle layers of its atmosphere.
  • The frequency of cyclones in this region is bi-modal, i.e., Cyclones occur in the months of May–June and October–November.

Conditions for cyclone formation:

  • A warm sea surface (temperature in excess of 26o –27o C) and associated warming extending up to a depth of 60m with abundant water vapour.
  • High relative humidity in the atmosphere up to a height of about 5,000 metres.
  • Atmospheric instability that encourages the formation of cumulus clouds.
  • Low vertical wind between the lower and higher levels of the atmosphere that do not allow the heat generated and released by the clouds to get transported from the area.
  • The presence of cyclonic vorticity (rate of rotation of air) that initiates and favours rotation of the air cyclonically.
  • Location over the ocean, at least 4–5 o latitude away from the equator.

How are Tropical Cyclones Formed?

  • Tropical cyclones typically form over large bodies of relatively warm water. Warm water > Evaporation > Rising up of air > Low Pressure area.
  • They derive their energy through the evaporation of water from the ocean surface, which ultimately re-condenses into clouds and rain when moist air rises and cools to saturation.
  • Water takes up heat from the atmosphere to change into vapour.
  • When water vapour changes back to liquid form as raindrops, this heat is released to the atmosphere.
  • The heat released to the atmosphere warms the air around.
  • The air tends to rise and causes a drop in the pressure.
  • More air rushes to the centre of the storm.
  • This cycle is repeated.

Why tropical cyclones don’t form in the eastern tropical oceans?

  • The depth of warm water (26-27°C) should extend for 60-70 m from surface of the ocean/sea, so that deep convection currents within the water do not churn and mix the cooler water below with the warmer water near the surface.
  • The above condition occurs only in western tropical oceans because of warm ocean currents (easterly trade winds pushes ocean waters towards west) that flow from east towards west forming a thick layer of water with temperatures greater than 27°C. This supplies enough moisture to the storm.
  • The cold currents lower the surface temperatures of the eastern parts of the tropical oceans making them unfit for the breeding of cyclonic storms.
  • ONE EXCEPTION: During strong El Nino years, strong hurricanes occur in the eastern Pacific. This is due to the accumulation of warm waters in the eastern Pacific due to weak Walker Cell.

Names of Tropical Cyclones

Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names:

  1. Cyclones in the Indian Ocean
  2. Hurricanes in the Atlantic
  3. Typhoons in the Western Pacific and the South China Sea
  4. Willy-willies in Western Australia

Structure of the tropical cyclone

Tropical cyclones are compact, circular storms, generally some 320 km (200 miles) in diameter, whose winds swirl around a central region of low atmospheric pressure. The winds are driven by this low-pressure core and by the rotation of Earth, which deflects the path of the wind through a phenomenon known as the Coriolis force. As a result, tropical cyclones rotate in a counter clockwise (or cyclonic) direction in the Northern Hemisphere and in a clockwise (or anticyclonic) direction in the Southern Hemisphere.

  1. The Eye: A characteristic feature of tropical cyclones is the eye, a central region of clear skies, warm temperatures, and low atmospheric pressure. Typically, atmospheric pressure at the surface of Earth is about 1,000 millibars.
  2. The Eyewall: The most dangerous and destructive part of a tropical cyclone is the eyewall. Here winds are strongest, rainfall is heaviest, and deep convective clouds rise from close to Earth’s surface to a height of 15,000 metres.
  3. Rainbands: These bands, commonly called rainbands, spiral into the centre of the storm. In some cases the rainbands are stationary relative to the centre of the moving storm, and in other cases they seem to rotate around the centre.
Landfall, what happens when a Cyclone reaches land from the ocean?
  • Tropical cyclones dissipate when they can no longer extract sufficient energy from warm ocean water.
  • A storm that moves over land will abruptly lose its fuel source and quickly lose intensity.
  • A tropical cyclone can contribute to its own demise by stirring up deeper, cooler ocean waters. tropical cyclone can contribute to its own demise by stirring up deeper, cooler ocean waters.

Cyclone Management in India

India is highly vulnerable to natural disasters especially cyclones, earthquakes, floods, landslides, and drought. Natural disasters cause a loss of 2% of GDP every year in India. According to the Home ministry, 8% of total area in India is prone to cyclones. India has a coastline of 7,516 km, of which 5,700 km are prone to cyclones of various degrees.

  • Loss due to cyclones: Loss of lives, livelihood opportunities, damage to public and private property and severe damage to infrastructure are the resultant consequences, which can disrupt the process of development
  • Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) is the nodal agency for early warning of cyclones and floods.
  • Natural Disaster Management Authority is mandated to deal with the disaster management in India. It has prepared National Guidelines on Management of Cyclone.
  • National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP) was launched by Home ministry to upgrade the forecasting, tracking and warning about cyclones in states.
  • National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has done a commendable performance in rescuing and managing relief work.
  • National Disaster Response Reserve (NDRR)– a fund of 250 crores operated by NDRF for maintaining inventory for an emergency situation.
  • In 2016, a blueprint of National Disaster Management Plan was unveiled to tackle disaster. It provides a framework to deal with prevention, mitigation, response and recovery during a disaster. According to the plan, Ministry of earth science will be responsible for disaster management of cyclone. By this plan, India joined the list of countries which follow the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
  • Due to increased awareness and tracking of Cyclone, the death toll has been reduced substantially. For example, Very severe cyclone Hudhud and Phailin claimed lives of around 138 and 45 people respectively, which might have been more. It was reduced due to the early warning and relocation of the population from the cyclone-hit areas. Very severe cyclone Ockhi claimed many lives of people in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. This was due to the unprecedented change in the direction of the cyclone.
  • But the destruction of infrastructure due to cyclonic hit is not been reduced which leads to increase in poverty due to the economic weakening of the affected population.

-Source: The Hindu


Forest Fires


Context:

The inquiry of bushfires that broke down in March 2023 by Goa Forest department has found that the fires were largely triggered by natural causes.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Forest Fires
  2. Advantages of forest fires
  3. Disadvantages of forest fires
  4. Forest Fire Vulnerability in India
  5. Ways to mitigate the risk of forest fires

About Forest Fires

A forest fire is an uncontrolled fire that occurs in areas with a significant amount of combustible vegetation, such as forests, grasslands, or shrublands.

Causes of Forest Fires

Forest fires are caused by Natural causes as well as Man-made or anthropogenic causes.

  • Natural causes such as lightning which set trees on fire. High atmospheric temperatures and low humidity offer favourable circumstance for a fire to start.
  • Man-made causes like flame, cigarette, electric spark or any source of ignition will also cause forest fires.
  • Traditionally Indian forests have been affected by fires. The problem has been aggravated with rising human and cattle population and the increase in demand for grazing, shifting cultivation and Forest products by individuals and communities.
  • High temperature, wind speed and direction, level of moisture in soil and atmosphere and duration of dry spells can intensify the forest fires.

Advantages of forest fires:

  • Some species of trees and plants have adapted to thrive in the aftermath of fires. For example, some pine trees rely on fires to open their cones and release seeds.
  • Forest fires can help to clear out dead wood, brush, and other debris, reducing the risk of future fires.
  • Fires can help to promote new growth and biodiversity by creating openings in the forest canopy that allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, stimulating the growth of new vegetation.

Disadvantages of forest fires:

  • Forest fires can destroy habitats and negatively impact biodiversity by killing animals and plants that are unable to escape the flames.
  • Smoke from fires can cause respiratory problems and other health issues for humans and animals.
  • Forest fires can damage or destroy homes, buildings, and other infrastructure, and can pose a significant threat to human safety.
  • The release of large amounts of greenhouse gases during forest fires can contribute to climate change.

India’s Initiatives to Tackle Forest Fires

  • National Action Plan on Forest Fires (NAPFF) was launched in 2018 to minimise forest fires by informing, enabling and empowering forest fringe communities and incentivising them to work with the State Forest Departments.
  • The Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme (FPM) is the only centrally funded program specifically dedicated to assist the states in dealing with forest fires.

Forest Fire Vulnerability in India

  • Forest fire season in India is from November to June
  • Council of Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) report notes a tenfold increase in forest fires over the past two decades in India
  • More than 62% of Indian states are prone to high-intensity forest fires according to CEEW report
  • Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Telangana, and Northeastern states are most prone to forest fires
  • Mizoram has the highest incidence of forest fires over the last two decades with 95% of its districts as forest fire hotspots
  • ISFR 2021 estimates over 36% of the country’s forest cover is prone to frequent forest fires, 6% is ‘very highly’ fire-prone, and almost 4% is ‘extremely’ prone
  • An FSI study found nearly 10.66% area under forests in India is ‘extremely’ to ‘very highly’ fire-prone.

Ways to mitigate the risk of forest fires:

  • Prevention: One of the most effective ways to mitigate forest fires is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. This can be done by creating fire breaks, clearing debris, and reducing the amount of flammable material in the forest.
  • Early Detection: Early detection of forest fires can help prevent them from spreading and causing more damage. This can be done by installing fire detection systems, using drones or satellite imagery, and training local communities to report fires quickly.
  • Fire Suppression: Fire suppression is a critical component of forest fire mitigation. This involves using firefighting equipment such as helicopters, water tanks, and fire retardants to put out fires.
  • Forest Management: Proper forest management practices can also help mitigate the risk of forest fires. This includes thinning out dense forests, creating fire-resistant vegetation, and reducing the amount of deadwood and other flammable materials in the forest.
  • Community Education: Educating local communities on the risks of forest fires and how to prevent them can also be effective in mitigating the risk of forest fires. This includes providing information on safe campfire practices, prohibiting the use of fireworks in fire-prone areas, and encouraging the use of fire-resistant building materials in areas at high risk of forest fires.

-Source: The Hindu


Law On Polygamy Among Religious Groups in India


Context:

Assam Chief Minister has said that the state government will move to ban the practice of polygamy through “legislative action”, and that an “expert committee” would be formed to examine the issue.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Practice of polygamy
  2. Second Marriage
  3. Polygamy under Hindu law
  4. Polygamy under Muslim law
  5. Prevalence of polygamy

Practice of polygamy

  • Polygamy is the practice of having more than one married spouse — wife or husband. The issue is governed both by personal laws and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • Traditionally, polygamy — mainly the situation of a man having more than one wife — was practised widely in India. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 outlawed the practice.
  • IPC Section 494 (“Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife”) penalises bigamy or polygamy. The section reads: “Whoever, having a husband or wife living, marries in any case in which such marriage is void by reason of its taking place during the life of such husband or wife, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
  • This provision does not apply to a marriage which has been declared void by a court — for example, a child marriage that has been declared void.
  • The law also does not apply if a spouse has been “continually absent” for the “space of seven years”. This means a spouse who has deserted the marriage or when his or her whereabouts are not known for seven years, will not bind the other spouse from remarrying.

Second Marriage

Proof required for a second marriage

  • In a case of bigamy, the second marriage has to be legally valid as per prescribed customs. A complaint by the first wife usually triggers an investigation into the legality of the second marriage. Adulterous relationships that do not qualify as legally valid marriages under the law are not covered under penal provisions.

Legal position reiterated by Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court, in Kanwal Ram and Ors v The Himachal Pradesh Administration (1965), reiterated that the standard of proof in a bigamy case must be of a marriage performed as per customs. The ceremonies constituting the second marriage must be proved as a fact.

Protection for the rights of the second wife

  • Section 495 of the IPC protects the rights of the second wife in case of a bigamous marriage. It states that whoever commits the offence defined in the previous section (Section 494), having concealed from the person with whom the subsequent marriage is contracted, the fact of the former marriage, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to a fine.

Polygamy under Hindu law:

Background:

  • After Independence, anti-bigamy laws were adopted by provincial legislatures including Bombay and Madras.
  • The Special Marriage Act, 1954, required monogamy, outlawing the concept of having more than one spouse at a time.
  • The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936, had already outlawed bigamy.

Hindu Marriage Act:

  • Parliament passed the Hindu Marriage Act in 1955, outlawing the concept of having more than one spouse at a time.
  • Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs are also included under the Hindu Marriage Code.
  • Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act lays down that “a marriage may be solemnized between any two Hindus, if…[among other conditions] neither party has a spouse living at the time of the marriage”.
  • Under Section 17 of the HMA bigamy is an offence, “and the provisions of sections 494 and 495 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, shall apply accordingly”.

Child rights:

  • Despite bigamy being an offence, the child born from the bigamous marriage would acquire the same rights as a child from the first marriage under the law.

Goa exception:

  • A crucial exception to the bigamy law for Hindus is Goa, which follows its own code for personal laws.
  • A Hindu man in the state has the right to bigamy under specific circumstances mentioned in the Codes of Usages and Customs of Gentile Hindus of Goa.
  • These circumstances include a case where the wife fails to conceive by the age of 25 or if she fails to deliver a male child by the age of 30.
  • However, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has said that the provision for Hindus is virtually “redundant” and that “no one has been given the benefit of it since 1910”.

Polygamy under Muslim law

  • Marriage in Islam is governed by the Shariat Act, 1937.
  • Muslim personal law allows a Muslim man to have up to four wives.
  • In the past, some men from other religions have converted to Islam to have a second wife.
  • In 1995, the Supreme Court in Sarla Mudgal v Union of India held that religious conversion for the sole purpose of committing bigamy is unconstitutional.
  • Any move to outlaw polygamy for Muslims would require special legislation that overrides personal law protections, similar to the case of triple talaq.

Prevalence of polygamy

  • The National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-20) showed the prevalence of polygamy was 2.1% among Christians, 1.9% among Muslims, 1.3% among Hindus, and 1.6% among other religious groups.
  • The data showed that the highest prevalence of polygynous marriages was in the Northeastern states with tribal populations.
  • A list of 40 districts with the highest polygyny rates was dominated by those with high tribal populations.

-Source: Indian Express


India’s Delayed Implementation of Mandatory Drug Recall Law


Context:

Abbot published a public notice in newspapers, alerting people about a mislabelled batch of medicine that it had inadvertently shipped to the market. Such recalls take place regularly in the US but it is uncommon in India for domestic or foreign pharmaceutical companies to recall substandard or mislabelled drugs.

Relevance:

GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. India’s Struggle for a Mandatory Law
  2. Why there is no concrete law in India?
  3. Consequences of Delay in Implementing a Mandatory Drug Recall Law in India
  4. Way forward

India’s Struggle for a Mandatory Law

  • Since 1976, India has been considering the creation of a mandatory recall law for substandard drugs.
  • In 1976, the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) meeting resolved to enhance cooperation between state drug controllers for recalling and destroying drugs that failed tests.
  • However, DCC meetings in 1989, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2007, and 2011 also discussed the issue of recalls, but no changes were made to the Drugs & Cosmetics Act.
  • In 2012, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) proposed draft recall guidelines, but the national regulator lacked the power to convert guidelines into binding law.
  • The issue of recalls resurfaced in DCC and Drugs Technical Advisory Board meetings in 2016 and 2018-2019, respectively, but India still lacks a recall law, after 46 years of considering the issue.

Why there is no concrete law in India?

  • Insufficient resources: The Drug Regulation Section of the Union health ministry is not equipped to tackle complex drug regulatory issues.
  • Fragmented regulatory structure: India has a highly fragmented regulatory structure, with each state having its own drug regulator.
  • Fear of public attention: India’s drug regulators are aware that a mandatory drug recall system will bring to public attention the poor state of affairs in India’s pharmaceutical industry.
  • Lack of accountability: The delay in implementing a recall law exposes the lack of accountability in protecting public health.

Consequences of Delay in Implementing a Mandatory Drug Recall Law in India:

  • Failed Drug Testing: Government laboratories report dozens of drugs failing random testing every month.
  • Circulation of Substandard Drugs: Absence of a mandatory drug recall law leads to substandard drugs, including those with hazardous consequences for consumers, to be sold in the market.
  • Public Health Risk: People, especially children, are exposed to the risk of death or adverse health events due to the delay in the swift removal of substandard drugs from the market.

Way forward

  • Implementation of a mandatory drug recall law with effective enforcement to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for substandard drugs.
  • Centralization of responsibility for drug recalls under one authority with legal powers to hold companies liable for failures to recall drugs from across the country and to search and seize batches of failed medicine.
  • Streamlining of regulatory processes to reduce approval time and ensure thorough drug testing before entering the market.
  • Equipping the Drug Regulation Section of the Union health ministry with the necessary resources, expertise and mandate to tackle complex drug regulatory issues.
  • Encouragement of ethical pharmaceutical companies through incentives for compliance with regulatory standards, penalties for non-compliance, and transparency in drug pricing.

-Source: The Hindu


Coco Islands


Context:

Amid recent reports of suspicious infrastructure upgrades at Myanmar’s Coco Islands, an MQ-9 drone leased by the Indian Navy was recently seen reconnoitring the nearby areas of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Relevance:

Places in News

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Coco Islands
  2. History

About Coco Islands:

  • The Coco Islands, a small group of islands located in the Bay of Bengal, are part of the Yangon Region of Myanmar.
  • The largest island in the group, Great Coco Island, is just 55 km away from India’s strategic Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Geologically, the Coco Islands are an extension of the Arakan Mountains and emerge as a chain of islands in the Bay of Bengal before re-emerging as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which are part of the same topography as the Coco Islands.
History:
  • During the early 19th century, the British government in India established a penal colony in the Andaman for convicts from the Indian subcontinent.
  • The Coco Islands served as a source of food for this colony. The British government leased the islands to the Jadwet family of Burma, resulting in poor governance of the islands.
  • Consequently, the British government transferred control of the islands to the government of Lower Burma in Rangoon.
  • In 1882, the islands officially became part of British Burma and became a self-governing crown colony even after Burma was separated from British India in 1937.

-Source: Indian Today


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