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Current Affairs 16 December 2023

  1. Operation Storm Makers II: Unveiling the Global Network of Fraud in Human Trafficking
  2. COP28 Draft Decisions: Advancing Carbon Abatement Technologies
  3. Surge in Illegal Indian Migrants to the U.S.: A Decade of Alarming Increase
  4. Countervailing Duties Imposed on Indian Products: Retaliation Against RoDTEP Scheme
  5. Social Stock Exchange
  6. Mumps
  7. Channapatna Toys


Context:

Interpol has spearheaded Operation Storm Makers II, a collaborative effort involving law enforcement from 27 countries across Asia and beyond. The operation aims to target and expose the intricate web of fraud schemes associated with human trafficking and migrant smuggling on a global scale.

Relevance:

GS II: Issues Related to Children

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Major Highlights of Operation Storm Makers II
  2. Status of Human Trafficking in India
  3. Major Causes and Impacts of Human Trafficking

Major Highlights of Operation Storm Makers II:

Apprehension of Suspects:

  • Operation led to the apprehension of 281 individuals in various countries.
  • Charges include human trafficking, passport forgery, corruption, telecommunications fraud, and sexual exploitation.

Rescue and Investigations:

  • Rescue of 149 human trafficking victims.
  • Initiation of over 360 investigations, with a significant number actively pursued by law enforcement agencies.

Landmark Case in India:

  • Telangana police registered one of the first cases in India related to human trafficking for the purpose of forcing victims into committing cyber fraud.

Exploitation and Ransom Incident:

  • An accountant was lured to a Southeast Asian country.
  • Forced to participate in online fraudulent schemes under inhumane conditions.
  • Secured release only after a ransom payment.

Status of Human Trafficking in India:

  • Definition: Human trafficking involves the illegal trade and exploitation of individuals, often for forced labor, sexual exploitation, or involuntary servitude.
  • Actions: It encompasses recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of individuals through threat, force, coercion, abduction, fraud, or deception for the purpose of exploitation.
Statistics:
  • Victim Identification: In 2022, India identified over 6,500 human trafficking victims, with 60% being women and girls, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
Constitutional & Legislative Provisions:

Constitutional Prohibition:

  • Article 23 of the Constitution prohibits human trafficking and begar (forced labor without payment).

Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA):

  • Primary law preventing trafficking specifically for commercial sexual exploitation.

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012:

  • Enacted to shield children from sexual abuse and exploitation.
  • Clearly defines various forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assaults and sexual harassment.

Other Specific Legislations:

  • Various laws targeting trafficking in women and children, such as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994.
  • Sections in the Indian Penal Code, such as Sections 372 and 373, address the selling and buying of girls for prostitution.

State-Specific Legislation:

  • States have enacted specific laws, such as The Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012, to address human trafficking at the state level.

Major Causes and Impacts of Human Trafficking:

Causes:
  • Poverty and Economic Disparities: Economic hardships make individuals vulnerable to promises of better opportunities exploited by traffickers.
  • Limited Education and Awareness: Lack of education and awareness about trafficking tactics leaves individuals susceptible to trafficking.
  • Conflict, Political Instability, and Natural Disasters: Environments affected by conflict, instability, or disasters create conditions conducive to exploitation.
  • Marginalized Groups: Social discrimination and lack of support structures make marginalized groups, including women, children, migrants, and minorities, more vulnerable.
  • Industries Seeking Low-Cost Labor: Industries ignoring exploitative practices perpetuate trafficking for labor exploitation.
  • Technological Advancements: Online recruitment facilitated by technology enables traffickers to lure victims through various deceptive means.
Impacts:
  • Severe Psychological Trauma: Victims endure depression, anxiety, and a sense of betrayal, leading to long-term mental health issues.
  • Physical Abuse and Health Complications: Victims suffer physical abuse, neglect, and inadequate healthcare, resulting in various health complications and long-term injuries.
  • Loss of Autonomy and Basic Rights: Trafficked individuals lose autonomy, living in constant fear, subjected to control and exploitation.
  • Social Stigma and Ostracization: Survivors face social stigma, making reintegration into society challenging even after rescue.
  • Fueling a Global Criminal Network: Human trafficking contributes to a global criminal network, impacting social fabric, economies, and international relations, undermining global human rights efforts.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

At COP28 in Dubai, UAE, draft decisions have proposed the reduction and elimination of carbon emissions through the adoption of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Carbon-Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies. The focus is on addressing unabated fossil fuels, emphasizing the imperative to “phase out” the combustion of these fuels without employing CCS technologies for emission capture.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. CCS and CDR Technologies: Understanding the Methods
  2. Challenges of CCS and CDR Technologies

CCS and CDR Technologies: Understanding the Methods

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS):
  • Definition: CCS involves capturing carbon dioxide (CO₂) at emission sources before its release into the atmosphere.
  • Sources: Includes fossil fuel industries (coal, oil, and gas combustion for power generation) and industrial processes like steel and cement production.
Carbon-Dioxide Removal (CDR):

Nature and Technologies:

  • Natural means like afforestation or reforestation.
  • Technologies like direct air capture, mimicking trees by absorbing CO₂ and storing it underground.
  • Complex methods like enhanced rock weathering, chemically breaking down rocks to remove CO₂.
  • Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), capturing and storing CO₂ from biomass burning, such as wood.

Importance in Achieving Global Warming Goals:

IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6):
  • Reliance: The AR6 heavily relies on CCS and CDR technologies for projections to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Sequestration Scale: IPCC assumes the world can sequester 5 billion tonnes of CO₂ by 2040 in scenarios with over a 50% chance of meeting the 1.5 degrees Celsius target.
No Pathway Without CDR:
  • The AR6 lacks a pathway to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius target without integrating CDR technologies.
  • Current emission rates pose a risk of surpassing the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold within seven years.
Significant Role in Mitigation:
  • Given current emission rates, achieving the 1.5 degrees Celsius target solely through direct measures (like renewable energy adoption) is nearly impossible, necessitating substantial reliance on CDR technologies.

Challenges of CCS and CDR Technologies:

Risk of Continued Emissions:
  • Concerns: Existence of CCS and CDR may inadvertently create room for continued emissions.
  • Consequence: This might lead to increased emissions or prolonged reliance on fossil fuels instead of transitioning to renewable energy sources.
CCS for Enhanced Oil Extraction:
  • Issue: In some cases, CCS has been utilized to extract more oil by injecting captured CO₂ into oil fields.
  • Concern: This practice potentially prolongs reliance on fossil fuels rather than facilitating a transition away from them.
Land Constraints for CDR Methods:
  • Methods Affected: Afforestation, reforestation, BECCS, and direct air capture.
  • Challenge: These methods are constrained by the need for land.
  • Global South Impact: Land in the Global South, considered ‘viable’ and ‘cost-effective,’ may be used for large-scale CDR projects.
  • Consequences: Adverse effects on land rights of indigenous communities, biodiversity, and competition with essential land-use, like agriculture for food security.
Technological Challenges:
  • Scale-Up Challenges: The scale-up of CCS and CDR poses significant technological challenges.
  • Issues: High costs, limited infrastructure, and the need for substantial innovation to enhance effectiveness and affordability of these technologies.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Over the past decade, the influx of illegal Indian migrants to the U.S. has witnessed a remarkable surge, escalating from a modest 1,500 a decade ago to a staggering 96,917 in 2023, according to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The most significant increase in illegal border crossings by Indians has been observed since 2020, deviating from historically lower numbers below 10,000. While traditionally concentrated in the U.S.-Mexico border, Indian migrants are now increasingly choosing the northern border, with numbers surging from under 100 in 2014 to over 30,000 in 2023.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Reasons for Surge in Illegal Indian Migrants to the USA
  2. Socio-Political and Geo-Political Implications for India Over Surge in Illegal Migrants

Reasons for Surge in Illegal Indian Migrants to the USA:

Push Factors:
  • Lack of Economic Opportunities:
    • Individuals seek better employment prospects abroad due to insufficient job opportunities and economic prospects in India.
  • Social Conflicts and Governance Concerns:
    • Social conflicts or lack of confidence in the governance structure in India prompt some to seek a more stable environment elsewhere.
Pull Factors:
  • Better Employment and Higher Wages:
    • The U.S.’s reputation for offering better employment, higher wages, and career advancement serves as a significant pull factor for migrants.
  • Quality Education:
    • The allure of quality education and prestigious academic institutions in the USA attracts students and families seeking educational opportunities.
  • Family Reunification:
    • Desire to reunite with family members or relatives already settled in the USA drives some migrants to seek illegal entry for proximity to loved ones.
Global Migration Trends:

Post-Pandemic Opportunities:

  • The overall rise in global migration post-pandemic contributes to the surge as individuals seek better opportunities and security in different countries.
Visa Backlogs and Alternative Routes:
  • Smuggler Strategies:
    • Smugglers offer sophisticated and in-demand services, facilitating illegal entry into America.
  • Driven by Visa Backlogs:
    • Extreme visa backlogs push individuals to explore alternative, albeit illegal, pathways due to prolonged waiting times and limited legal entry options.
Misinformation:
  • Social Media Deception:
    • Misinformation spread through social media and deceptive travel agencies misguides desperate migrants.
  • Perilous Journeys:
    • Desperate migrants may undertake complex, multi-leg journeys, facing numerous risks and challenges guided by multiple facilitators across continents.

Socio-Political and Geo-Political Implications for India Over Surge in Illegal Migrants:

Bilateral Ties with the USA:
  • Impact on Relations: The surge in illegal migrants could strain bilateral ties between India and the USA.
  • Potential Consequences: Trade negotiations, security cooperation, and strategic partnerships might be adversely affected.
Economic Consequences:
  • Brain Drain Concerns: The potential brain drain resulting from skilled individuals seeking illegal entry may impact India’s economy.
  • Sectoral Impact: Sectors relying on skilled labor may face challenges due to the departure of skilled and educated individuals.
  • Talent and Expertise Depletion: Loss of skilled and educated individuals to illegal migration can negatively impact India’s economy by depleting the country of talent and expertise.
Labour Shortages and Economic Productivity:
  • Impact on Workforce: The departure of skilled or semi-skilled workers may create labour shortages in certain sectors.
  • Economic Productivity: This shortage could impact India’s workforce and economic productivity.
Need for Stringent Policies:
  • Policy Implementation: India might need to implement stringent policies to address the factors driving illegal migration.
  • Resource Diversion: Such policy implementation could potentially divert resources and attention from other developmental priorities.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The United States and the European Union have levied countervailing duties (CVDs) on four Indian products in response to the introduction of the Remission of Duties and Taxes on Export Products (RoDTEP) scheme for outbound shipments in January 2021. The U.S. concluded countervailing investigations, resulting in CVD determinations for items such as paper file folders, common alloy aluminum sheet, and forged steel fluid end blocks. Simultaneously, the European Commission investigated specific graphite electrode systems, leading to countervailing duties.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Countervailing Duty (CVD) Explained
  2. Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) Scheme

Countervailing Duty (CVD) Explained:

  • Countervailing Duty (CVD):
    • Tariffs imposed on imported goods to offset subsidies provided to producers in the exporting country.
  • Leveling the Playing Field:
    • Intended to equalize competition between domestic and foreign producers of the same product, addressing the advantage foreign producers gain from government subsidies.
WTO’s Role and SCM Agreement:
  • WTO Permission:
    • The World Trade Organization (WTO) permits member countries to impose countervailing duties.
  • SCM Agreement:
    • The WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement) regulates subsidies and countervailing measures against injury from subsidized imports.
Multilateral Regulations:
  • Subsidy Rules:
    • Multilateral disciplines establish rules on subsidy provisions, enforced through the WTO dispute settlement mechanism.
  • Unilateral Imposition:
    • Countervailing duties are unilaterally imposed by a member country after investigation and meeting criteria under the SCM Agreement.
Defining Subsidies:
  • SCM Agreement Definition:
    • “Subsidy” is defined as a financial contribution by a government conferring a benefit.
  • Specificity Criteria:
    • Specificity determines whether a subsidy applies to a particular enterprise, industry, or region.
Subsidy Categories:
  • Prohibited and Actionable Subsidies:
    • Subsidies are categorized as prohibited (e.g., export subsidies, local content subsidies) and actionable (subject to challenge or countervailing measures).
  • Potential Harm:
    • Actionable subsidies can cause injury, prejudice, or nullification of benefits.
Transition Rules:
  • Exemptions and Phasing Out:
    • Transition rules provide exemptions or extended periods for developing countries and those transitioning to market economies to phase out certain subsidies.

Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) Scheme

  • The RoDTEP Scheme allows exporters to receive refunds on taxes and duties that are not exempted or refunded under any other scheme.
  • Under the scheme, exporters receive refunds on the embedded taxes and duties previously non-recoverable.
  • The chief aim of the scheme is to boost the export of goods that were poor in volume.
  • The scheme basically replaces the Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS).
  • The scheme provides for rebates of Central, State and Local duties/taxes/ levies which are not refunded under any other duty remission schemes.
  • The RoDTEP scheme can be said to be a combination of the MEIS and the Rebate of State and Central Taxes and Levies (RoSCTL).
  • Under this scheme, refund would be claimed as a percentage of the Freight On Board (FOB) value of exports. 
Features of RoDTEP Scheme
  • It covers duties and taxes levied at the central, state and local levels that are not reimbursed under any other mechanism. Items that were under the MEIS and the RoSCTL are shifted to the RoDTEP.
  • Refunds will be issued to exporters as transferable duty credit/electronic scrips and maintained in an electronic ledger. This is keeping in line with the Digital India mission. This can be used to pay basic customs duty on imported goods. The credits can also be transferred to other importers.
  • Faster clearance through a digital platform will be facilitated through a monitoring & audit mechanism, with an IT-based risk management system that would physically verify the exporters’ records.
  • The scheme is applicable across all sectors.

RoDTEP Benefits

  • Being WTO-compliant, the RoDTEP scheme can make available from the government benefits to the exporters seamlessly.
  • The scheme is more exhaustive in that certain taxes that were not covered under the previous scheme are also included in the list, for example, education cess, state taxes on oil, power and water.
  • It will add more competitiveness in the foreign markets, with assured duty benefits by the Indian Government.
  • It will also help exporters meet international standards and promote business growth.
  • Also under RoDTEP, tax assessment is set to become fully automatic for exporters, hence, Businesses will get access to their refunds for GST via an automatic refund-route.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the Unnati Foundation became the first entity to list on the social stock exchanges (SSE).

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a Social Stock Exchange?
  2. Eligibility

What is a Social Stock Exchange?

  • The SSE would function as a separate segment within the existing stock exchange and help social enterprises raise funds from the public through its mechanism.
  • It would serve as a medium for enterprises to seek finance for their social initiatives, acquire visibility and provide increased transparency about fund mobilisation and utilisation.
  • Retail investors can only invest in securities offered by for-profit social enterprises (SEs) under the Main Board.
  • In all other cases, only institutional investors and non-institutional investors can invest in securities issued by SEs.
Eligibility
  • Any non-profit organisation (NPO) or for-profit social enterprise (FPSEs) that establishes the primacy of social intent would be recognised as a social enterprise (SE), which will make it eligible to be registered or listed on the SSE.
  • The seventeen plausible criteria as listed under Regulations 292E of SEBI’s ICDR (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2018 entail that enterprises must be serving to eradicate either hunger, poverty, malnutrition and inequality; promoting education, employability, equality, empowerment of women and LGBTQIA+ communities; working towards environmental sustainability; protection of national heritage and art or bridging the digital divide, among other things.
  • At least 67% of their activities must be directed towards attaining the stated objective. Corporate foundations, political or religious organisations or activities, professional or trade associations, infrastructure and housing companies (except affordable housing) would not be identified as an SE.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Recently, Mumps cases in children are on rise in the states of Maharashtra and Telangana which has become a cause of concern for parents.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

About Mumps: A Contagious Paramyxovirus Infection

Causative Agent:

  • Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a paramyxovirus.
Symptoms:
  • Gland Swelling:
    • It can cause swelling of the parotid glands on each side of the face, leading to tenderness or pain.
  • Age Group Affected:
    • It is an acute disease that commonly infects children and young adults.
Transmission:
  • Virus Host and Spread:
    • Humans are the only known host for the mumps virus.
    • Spread occurs through direct contact or airborne droplets from the upper respiratory tract of infected individuals.
Symptoms and Progression:
  • Incubation Period:
    • After an incubation period of 2 to 4 weeks, mumps manifests with non-specific symptoms like myalgia, headache, malaise, and low-grade fever.
  • Gland Swelling:
    • Within days, swelling of the parotid salivary glands occurs, affecting other salivary glands in 10% of cases.
  • Disease Nature:
    • Mumps is typically a mild, self-limiting disease that resolves without complications.
  • Possible Complications:
    • Complications may include encephalitis or sensorineural deafness.
    • Orchitis, a painful inflammation of the testes, occurs in 20% of young adult males with mumps.
Treatment and Prevention:
  • No Specific Treatment:
    • There is no specific treatment for mumps, but various symptoms can be relieved with medicines.
  • Immunization:
    • Prevention involves ensuring immunization against mumps, particularly in children, as the most effective safeguard.

-Source: Hindustan Times



Context:

Channapatna toys have now become part of children’s academic activities in Afghanistan.

Relevance:

GS I: Art and Culture

Channapatna Toys: Wooden Craftsmanship from Gombegala Ooru

  • Origin: Channapatna toys are a distinct form of wooden toys and dolls crafted in Channapatna, located in the Ramanagara district of Karnataka.
  • Local Name: Channapatna is also known as Gombegala Ooru, meaning toy-town.
History:

Tipu Sultan’s Influence:

  • The history of Channapatna toys dates back to the 18th century during Tipu Sultan’s reign in the Kingdom of Mysore.
  • Legend has it that Tipu Sultan, impressed by the craftsmanship of Persian artisans, invited them to train local craftsmen in toy-making.
  • This marked the inception of the Channapatna toy industry, which has thrived ever since.
Distinct Features:

Handmade Craftsmanship:

  • Most Channapatna toys are handmade, preserving traditional techniques passed down through generations, ensuring each piece’s uniqueness.

Material Composition:

  • Traditionally crafted from Ivory Wood, sourced from nearby forests. Modern variations use sandalwood and mango wood.
  • Painted with organic colors derived from vegetables, plants, and natural dyes, ensuring the toys are 100% chemical-free.

Safe Designs:

  • Typically shaped as rounds and cubes with blunt edges, ensuring complete safety for children.

Geographical Indication (GI) Tag:

  • Channapatna Toys received the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2005, highlighting their unique origin and traditional craftsmanship.

-Source: Indian Express


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