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Current Affairs 20 April 2023

CONTENTS

  1. UN population report: Key takeaways
  2. SC verdicts that moved the needle on LGBTQ rights
  3. Internet for the next generation:Web3
  4. Top exporting district in India: Jamnagar in Gujarat
  5. TeLEOS-2 Satellite
  6. Detection of a magnetic field around exoplanet YZ Ceti b

UN Population Report: Key Takeaways


Context:

India is now the most populous country in the world, having overtaken China in population, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said in its State of World Population (SOWP) report, ‘8 Billion Lives, Infinite Possibilities’.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations, GS I: Population related issues

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of UNFPA’s Report on World Population
  2. Population Growth Outlook
  3. How has increasing life expectancy impacted global population growth?
  4. India’s Population: Facts and Figures
  5. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Highlights of UNFPA’s Report on World Population

  • World population is 8,045 million, with the largest share (65%) between ages 15-64, followed by those in 10-24 years group (24%) and 10% above 65 years.
  • Eastern & South-Eastern Asia and Central & Southern Asia are the world’s most populous regions, accounting for 29% and 26% of the global population, respectively.
  • China and India have the largest populations in these regions, with over 1.4 billion each in 2022.
  • Central & Southern Asia is projected to become the most populous region in the world by 2037.
  • Global population could reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050, and 10.4 billion by 2100.
  • Over half of the projected increase in global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in eight countries, namely, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and the United Republic of Tanzania.
  • Sub-Saharan African countries are expected to continue growing through 2100 and contribute more than half of the global population increase anticipated through 2050.

Population Growth Outlook:

  • Global population growth rate has declined and has been less than 1% since 2020 due to falling fertility rates.
  • Total fertility rate at or below 2.1 children per woman is considered replacement fertility rate, and already two-thirds of people live in such areas.
  • In 2020, 281 million people lived outside their country of birth, with international migration being a driver of growth in many countries.
  • South Asia has some of the highest emigration trends, with India seeing an estimated net outflow of 3.5 million and Pakistan having the highest net flow of migrants of 16.5 million.
  • Despite declining fertility rates, the total annual number of births has remained stable at around 140 million since the late 1980s due to the youthful age distribution of the global population.
  • Most births in 2021 occurred in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and the number of newborns is expected to slightly increase to reach 138 million annually between 2040 and 2045.

How has increasing life expectancy impacted global population growth?

Life expectancy and declining mortality rates are among the factors contributing to global population growth, according to the UNFPA. The 2023 report highlights the following findings related to life expectancy:

  • In 2019, global life expectancy was 72.8 years, up nearly 9 years from 1990.
  • Men have a life expectancy of 71 years, while women have a life expectancy of 76 years.
  • Average global longevity is projected to reach 77.2 years by 2050, as mortality rates continue to decline.
  • The share of the population aged 65 or above is expected to rise from 10% in 2022 to 16% in 2050.
  • By 2050, the number of people aged 65 or above is expected to be more than double that of 5-year-olds and equal to that of 12-year-olds.

As fertility rates drop in high-fertility regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, the global population is expected to eventually decline. However, for now, increasing life expectancy continues to contribute to global population growth.

India’s Population: Facts and Figures

Overview:
  • India is the most populous country in the world with 1,428.6 million people.
  • The country has a young population, with 68% of its population belonging to the 15-64 years category, and 26% in the 10-24 years group.
  • However, India’s fertility rate has been steadily dropping, and the National Family Health 5 Survey (2019-21) found that India attained a Total Fertility Rate of 2.0 for the first time, less than the replacement level of 2.1, falling from 2.2 in NFHS 4 (2015-16).
Population Growth:
  • India’s large population is a result of “population momentum” from earlier decades, and experts predict that the country’s population is likely to start declining closer to 2050.
  • The increased use of contraceptive methods, spacing of pregnancies, access to health care, and the impetus to family planning have contributed to the rate of growth of population slowing.
Life Expectancy:
  • Life expectancy for men in India is 71 years, the same as the global average, while it is marginally lower for women at 74 years.
Demographic Dividend:
  • With 68% of its population as youth and a working population, India could have one of the largest workforces in the world, giving it a global advantage.
  • Experts talk about the opportunity of India’s “demographic dividend,” which could help spur economic growth by educating and skilling its youth and providing this skilled labor to countries in need of such a workforce in the near future.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is a UN agency that was established in 1969. It is responsible for promoting universal access to reproductive health care, supporting population and development strategies, and advocating for women’s rights.

Mission and Objectives:

The UNFPA’s mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. The agency has several objectives:

  • Promote reproductive health and rights: UNFPA works to ensure that every individual has access to reproductive health care services and information, including family planning, maternal health care, and prevention of sexually transmitted infections.
  • Support gender equality: The agency advocates for the empowerment of women and girls, including efforts to end gender-based violence and child marriage.
  • Provide humanitarian assistance: UNFPA works to provide essential reproductive health services during times of humanitarian crises, including conflicts and natural disasters.
  • Promote population and development strategies: The agency supports countries in developing policies and programs that integrate population and development goals.

-Source: Indian Express


SC Verdicts That Moved The Needle on LGBTQ Rights


Context:

The Supreme Court continued to hear a batch of pleas seeking legal recognition for same-sex marriages. On the second day of the hearing, the court heard arguments on the changing legal landscape on LGBTQ rights and the evolution of the right to choose one’s partner.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Landmark Judgments by the Supreme Court of India in Upholding Individual Rights and Equality
  2. Centre opposes same-sex marriage in affidavit to Supreme Court
  3. What about other countries?
  4. About Special Marriage Act, 1954

Landmark Judgments by the Supreme Court of India in Upholding Individual Rights and Equality

NALSA v Union of India
  • In April 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional rights of transgender persons under Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution in the case of NALSA v Union of India.
  • The court directed the Centre and state governments to grant legal recognition to their gender identity, such as male, female, or the third gender.
KS Puttaswamy v Union of India
  • In 2017, a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court unanimously recognised the right to privacy as a fundamental right under the Constitution.
  • In doing so, the verdict overruled the 2013 ‘Suresh Koushal’ ruling, which upheld the constitutional validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
Shafin Jahan v Union of India
  • The Supreme Court in March 2018 set aside a Kerala High Court judgment that annulled the marriage of a 24-year-old woman who converted to Islam and married a man of her choice.
  • The ruling recognised the right to choose one’s partner as a facet of the fundamental right to liberty and dignity.
Shakti Vahini v Union of India
  • In March 2018, a three-judge Bench on the Supreme Court issued directives to prevent honour killings at the behest of khap panchayats and protect persons who marry without the approval of the panchayats.
  • In the ruling, the Court recognised the right to choose a life partner as a fundamental right.
Navtej Johar v Union of India
  • In August 2018, the Supreme Court struck down IPC Section 377 to the extent that it criminalised homosexuality.
  • The ruling recognised the LGBTQ community as equal citizens and underlined that there cannot be discrimination in law based on sexual orientation and gender.
Deepika Singh vs Central Administrative Tribunal
  • The Supreme Court in August 2021 decided in favour of a woman who was denied maternity leave for her first biological child on the ground that she had already availed the benefit for her two non-biological children.
  • The ruling recognised “atypical” families, including queer marriages, which could not be confined to traditional parenting roles.

Centre opposed same-sex marriage in affidavit to Supreme Court

The Centre had submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court, arguing against same-sex marriage in India. Here are the key points:

Sanctity of marriage:

  • The Centre argues that marriage between a biological man and woman is a “holy union, a sacrament and a sanskar” in India, and has a sanctity attached to it.
  • It states that marriage is a delicate balance of personal laws and societal values that have been upheld for generations.

Statutory recognition:

  • The government claims that Parliament has designed and framed marriage laws that recognise only the union of a man and woman to be capable of legal sanction.
  • Any deviation from this accepted norm in human relationship can only happen through the legislature and not the Supreme Court.

Interference with personal laws:

  • Any interference with existing personal laws in the country, which are governed by the customs of various religious communities, could cause complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country and in accepted societal values, the Centre warns.

Decriminalisation of homosexuality:

  • The Centre states that the Supreme Court’s 2018 judgment in Navtej Singh Johar decriminalised homosexuality, but did not legitimise same-sex marriage as part of the fundamental right to life and dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Heterosexual marriage is foundational:

  • Statutory recognition of heterosexual marriage has been the norm throughout history and is foundational to both the existence and continuance of the state, according to the government.

No comparison to traditional family unit:

  • The government argues that a same-sex marriage cannot be compared to a man and woman living as a family with children born out of the union.
  • “Living together as partners and having sexual relationship by same-sex individuals [which is decriminalised now] is not comparable with the Indian family unit concept of a husband, a wife and children…” the government contends.

Compelling interest:

  • The Centre claims there is a “compelling interest” for society and the state to limit recognition to heterosexual marriages only.

Request for protection:

  • The petitioners had argued that the 1954 Act should grant same-sex couples the same protection it allows inter-caste and inter-faith couples who want to marry.

What about other countries?

  • A total of 32 countries around the world have legalised same-sex marriages, some through legislation while others through judicial pronouncements.
  • Many countries first recognised same-sex civil unions as the escalatory step to recognise homosexual marriage.
  • Civil unions or partnerships are similar arrangements as marriages which provide legal recognition of unmarried couples of the same or opposite sex in order to grant them some of the rights that come with marriage — such as inheritance, medical benefits, employee benefits to spouses, managing joint taxes and finances, and in some cases even adoption.
  • The Netherlands was the first country in 2001 to legalise same-sex marriage by amending one line in its civil marriage law.
  • In some countries, the decriminalisation of homosexuality was not followed for years by the recognition of same-sex marriage, for instance, in the U.S. the former happened in 2003 while the latter in 2015.

About Special Marriage Act, 1954

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

The Act has 3 major objectives:

  • to provide a special form of marriage in certain cases,
  • to provide for registration of certain marriages and,
  • to provide for divorce.
Applicability of the Act
  • Any person, irrespective of religion.
  • Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, or Jews can also perform marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
  • Inter-religion marriages are performed under this Act.
  • This Act is applicable to the entire territory of India and extends to intending spouses who are both Indian nationals living abroad.
  • Indian national living abroad.
Succession to the property
  • Succession to the property of person married under this Act or customary marriage registered under this Act and that of their children, are governed by Indian Succession Act.
  • However, if the parties to the marriage are Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religion, the succession to their property will be governed by Hindu succession Act.
  • The Hindu Marriage Act is pertinent to Hindus, though the Special Marriage Act is appropriate to all residents of India regardless of their religion applicable at Court marriage.

-Source: The Hindu


Internet For The Next Generation: Web3


Context:

Web3 is built on top of existing Internet infrastructure and not in competition with previous versions of the web platform.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Web3
  2. Key Features of Web3
  3. How is Web3 different from Web2?
  4. Challenges for Web3

About Web3:

  • It is known as the decentralised web, and it caters to the next generation of the Internet, leveraging blockchain technology to create a more open and transparent web. And it’s called Web3.
  • Web3 is built on top of existing Internet infrastructure and not in competition with previous versions of the web platform.
  • It allows for the creation and exchange of digital assets, decentralised applications (dApps), and smart contracts in the blockchain system.
  • Blockchain is a decentralised digital technology that is designed to securely store data in a way where hacking and compromising is not easy like on current mediums and variants of the Internet.
  • It is best known for its use in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, where it is used to store and transfer digital currencies in a secure and transparent way.
Key Features of Web3:
  • Provides users with greater control over their data and digital assets.
  • Offers options and mediums for individuals to have more privacy and security of content and transactions.
  • Allows for peer-to-peer transactions and interactions, giving users control over their data and who they share it with.
  • More secure due to the absence of a single point of failure that can be exploited by hackers.
  • Ability to create and use decentralised applications (dApps) and smart contracts for various purposes, such as social media, finance, gaming, and more.
Who is using Web3?
  • Cryptocurrencies: Digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum use Web3’s blockchain technology to enable secure, decentralised transactions without the need for intermediaries.
  • Decentralised Finance (DeFi): DeFi is a movement that aims to build a new financial system on top of blockchain technology. DeFi applications use Web3 to enable users to borrow, lend, and trade cryptocurrencies without the need for traditional financial intermediaries.
  • Decentralised storage: Web3 is being used to create decentralised social networks like Mastodon, which are designed to be more user-centric. Web3 is also being used to develop decentralised identity verification systems.

How is Web3 different from Web2?

Web2, also known as the centralised web, is the current version of the Internet. It is characterised by the dominance of large, centralised platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Among the main differences between Web2 and Web3 are:

Centralisation vs. Decentralisation:

  • Web2 is centralised, meaning that data is stored on centralised servers owned and controlled by large corporations.
  • In contrast, Web3 is decentralised, meaning that data is stored on a decentralised network of computers that are owned and controlled by the users themselves.

Intermediaries vs peer-to-peer:

  • Web2 relies heavily on intermediaries such as banks, social media platforms, and online marketplaces to facilitate transactions and interactions.
  • Web3 enables peer-to-peer transactions and interactions, meaning that users can transact directly with one another without the need for intermediaries like banks, for example.

Data ownership and control: 

  • In Web2, large corporations like Facebook and Google have significant control over user data and can monetise it in ways that users may not be comfortable with.
  • In Web3, users can choose to share data only with those they trust.
  • In Web2, users must trust intermediaries to keep their data and transactions secure.
  • In Web3, users can trust the network itself to keep their data and transactions secure.

Challenges for Web3

  • Scalability: This is one of the biggest challenges. The current infrastructure of blockchain networks can only handle a limited number of transactions per second.
  • User Adoption: While blockchain technology has been around for over a decade, it is still relatively unknown.
  • Interoperability: Web3 is being built by a wide range of developers and organisations, each with their own unique vision for how the technology should be implemented.
  • Complexity: Technology requires a certain level of technical expertise to use and understand. This may be a barrier to adoption for some users who are not comfortable with technology or do not have the necessary technical knowledge.

-Source: Indian Express


Top Exporting District In India: Jamnagar in Gujarat


Context:

Jamnagar in Gujarat is the top exporting district in India. It formed about 24% of India’s exports in value terms in FY23 (till January).

  • Surat in Gujarat and Mumbai Suburban in Maharashtra feature second and third by a distance, forming only about 4.5% of the country’s exports in the period.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article

  1. Status of India’s Export Sector
  2. Challenges Facing the Export Sector in India
  3. Way Forward

Status of India’s Export Sector

Trade Deficit:
  • Merchandise trade deficit increased by over 39% to USD 266.78 billion in 2022-23, compared to USD 191 billion in 2021-22.
  • Merchandise imports rose by 16.51% in 2022-23, while merchandise exports increased by 6.03%. • Overall trade deficit stood at USD 122 billion in 2022-23, compared to USD 83.53 billion in 2022.
Top Export Sectors:
  • Engineering Goods: registered a 50% growth in exports at USD 101 billion in FY22.
  • Agriculture Products: exports were buoyed by the government’s push to meet global demand for food amid the pandemic. India exports rice worth USD 9.65 billion, the highest among agricultural commodities.
  • Textile and Apparels: exports (including handicrafts) stood at USD 44.4 billion in FY22, a 41% increase YoY. Government schemes like Mega Integrated Textile Region and Apparel (MITRA) Park are giving a strong boost to this sector.
  • Pharmaceuticals and Drugs: India is the third-largest producer of medicines by volume and the biggest supplier of generic drugs. India supplies over 50% of Africa’s requirement for generics, around 40% of generic demand in the US, and 25% of all medicine in the UK.
Current trends:
  • All pumps, tools, carbides, air compressors, engines, and generators manufacturing MNC companies in India are trading at all-time highs and shifting more production units to India.
  • Agricultural exports and textiles are expected to remain strong in the coming years.
  • India is expected to become a major player in the electric vehicle (EV) space and is actively working towards building capacity in EV batteries and charging infrastructure.

Challenges Facing the Export Sector in India:

Access to Affordable and Timely Finance:

  • Exporters require affordable and timely finance to sustain their operations and grow their businesses.
  • However, many Indian exporters struggle to obtain finance due to high interest rates, collateral requirements, and limited credit availability, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Limited Diversification of Exports:

  • India’s export basket is highly concentrated in a few sectors, such as engineering goods, textiles, and pharmaceuticals.
  • This makes the country vulnerable to fluctuations in global demand and market risks, as the lack of diversification limits its resilience to changing trade dynamics.

Impact of Protectionist Trade Policies:

  • With the disrupted global political order and weaponization of supply chain, many countries are moving towards protectionist trade policies.
  • These policies are shrinking India’s export capacities and posing a significant challenge to the country’s export sector.

Way Forward

Improving Infrastructure and Logistics

  • India needs to invest in transportation networks, ports, customs clearance processes, and export-oriented infrastructure such as export promotion zones and specialised manufacturing zones.
  • Improved infrastructure and logistics can reduce transportation costs, improve supply chain efficiency, and boost export capabilities.

Skill Development

  • Skill development programs should be implemented to enhance the availability of skilled labor in export-oriented industries.

Promoting Technology Adoption

  • Incentivizing and promoting technology adoption, such as automation, digitization, and Industry 4.0 technologies, can boost productivity, competitiveness, and innovation in the export sector.

Exploring Joint Development Programs

  • India can explore joint development programs with other countries in sectors like space, semiconductor, solar energy to improve India’s medium-term growth prospects.

Diversification of Exports

  • To reduce the vulnerability of India’s export sector to global demand fluctuations, it is essential to diversify its export basket across different sectors and countries.

Exports as an Engine of Growth

  • Exports cannot be the sole engine of growth amidst a wave of deglobalization and slowing growth.
  • India needs to focus on developing other sectors such as agriculture, services, and manufacturing, to ensure sustainable economic growth.

-Source: The Hindu


TeLEOS-2 Satellite


Context:

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to launch Singapore’s TeLEOS-2 satellite from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. About TeLEOS-2 Earth Observation Satellite:
  3. What are the launch vehicles used by ISRO?
  4. NewSpace India Limited (NSIL)

Details:

  • The TeLEOS-2 satellite launch will be conducted by the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
  • It will be a commercial mission facilitated by the NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), with TeLEOS-2 serving as the primary satellite and Lumelite-4 as a co-passenger satellite.

About TeLEOS-2 Earth Observation Satellite:

  • TeLEOS-2 is a satellite that is designed for Earth Observation.
  • It weighs 741 kg and is equipped with a synthetic aperture radar that can provide data in 1-meter resolution.
  • Additionally, it has a high-resolution camera that can capture images with a ground resolution of up to one meter.
Objectives of TeLEOS-2:
  • The primary objective of TeLEOS-2 is to provide high-resolution imagery of the Earth’s surface for various applications such as urban planning, disaster management, maritime safety, and environmental monitoring.
  • It is expected to support Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative which aims to harness technology to improve the quality of life for citizens.

What are the launch vehicles used by ISRO?

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV):Since its initial launch in 1994, PSLV has served as ISRO’s primary rocket. However, compared to those deployed in the 1990s, today’s PSLV is significantly more advanced and powerful. The PSLV is the most dependable rocket that ISRO has employed to date, with 52 of its 54 flights being successful. It is the first Indian launch vehicle to be fitted with liquid stages.  It successfully launched two spacecraft that later travelled to the Moon and Mars, namely Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in 2013. There are numerous variations of the two launch vehicles that ISRO currently utilises, the PSLV and GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle).  
Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV):The considerably more potent GSLV rocket is designed to lift heavier satellites farther into space. 18 missions have been completed by GSLV rockets to this point, four of them were unsuccessful. Lowering earth orbits may require satellites weighing 10,000 kg. The third stage of the GSLV Mk II is the indigenously developed Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS), and the Mk-III variants have rendered ISRO completely self-sufficient for launching its satellites. The European Arianne launch vehicle was previously utilised to carry its heavier satellites into orbit.  
Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV):SSLV is designed to provide affordable launch services for satellites up to 500 kg in response to the growing demand for small and micro-satellites around the world. It is intended to launch the indigenous EOS-03 earth observation satellite into orbit.

NewSpace India Limited (NSIL)

  • NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) is a Central Public Sector Enterprise that was established in 2019 by the Department of Space (DoS) in India. Here are some key points about NSIL:
  • It is the second commercial entity of the DoS after Antrix Corporation Limited, which was set up in 1992 to market the products and services of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • The mandate of NSIL is to transfer technology to the industry for producing commercially successful Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) spacecraft launchers.
  • NSIL also outsources assembly of small satellites and the upcoming Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).
  • The objective of NSIL is to commercially exploit the research and development work done by ISRO centres and DoS constituents.

-Source: The Hindu


Detection of a Magnetic Field Around Exoplanet YZ Ceti b


Context:

An alien world called YZ Ceti b has suddenly become the cynosure of astronomers.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Discovery and significance
  2. Importance of magnetic fields for habitable planets
  3. Future research

Discovery and significance

  • Jackie Villadsen and Sebastian Pineda used the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio telescope to detect radio signals from YZ Ceti, a small red dwarf star 12 light-years away from Earth.
  • The signals were observed to match the orbital period of YZ Ceti b, a rocky, earth-sized exoplanet rotating around the star.
  • The radio signals suggested the presence of a magnetic field around the exoplanet, making it a possible candidate for a habitable planet.
  • Such magnetic fields are important as they protect a planet’s atmosphere from being eroded by charged particles from its star.
  • The findings confirmed the method’s ability to lead to the “magnetic characterization of exoplanets” and could help astronomers learn more about rocky worlds in deep space.

Importance of magnetic fields for habitable planets

  • Planets need to be at a certain distance from their star in order to have an atmosphere and sustain water.
  • A strong magnetic field is necessary to protect a planet’s atmosphere from being eroded by charged particles from its star.
  • While larger exoplanets have been found to possess magnetic fields, smaller, rocky exoplanets have never been observed to have them until the detection around YZ Ceti b.
  • The discovery could be important in identifying potentially habitable planets and improving our understanding of planetary magnetic fields.
Future research
  • Further research and longer-term monitoring is needed to confirm the results and investigate the properties of the radio signals.
  • The findings could have implications for the future study of exoplanets and for identifying habitable planets.

-Source: The Hindu


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