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Current Affairs 27 December 2023

  1. Recent Passage of Key Bills in Parliament Amid Opposition Absence
  2. Sand Mining
  3. India Skills Report 2024
  4. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
  5. Veer Bal Diwas
  6. OSIRIS-APEX


Context:

The Parliament recently approved three crucial bills—Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023; Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023; and Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023. However, the passage was notable for the absence of 97 Opposition members, suspended amidst controversy. Introduced in August 2023, the bills underwent scrutiny by a 31-member Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Major Provisions of Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023
  2. Major Provisions of Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023 – BNSS2
  3. Major Provisions of Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023 – BSB2

Major Provisions of Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023

Introduction and Replacement:

  • Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (Second) (BNS2) replaces the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Offense Expansion and Community Service:

  • Maintains existing IPC provisions on murder, assault, and causing hurt.
  • Introduces new offenses like organized crime, terrorism, and group-related grievous hurt or murder.
  • Adds community service as a form of punishment.

Terrorism and Organized Crime:

  • Defines terrorism as acts threatening national integrity or causing terror.
  • Penalties range from death or life imprisonment to fines.
  • Organized crime includes offenses like kidnapping, extortion, and cybercrime.
  • Punishments vary from life imprisonment to death, with fines.

Mob Lynching:

  • Identifies murder or severe injury by five or more individuals on specific grounds as a punishable offense.
  • Carries life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Sexual Offenses:

  • Retains IPC sections on rape, voyeurism, etc.
  • Raises the age threshold for gangrape victims from 16 to 18 years.
  • Criminalizes deceptive sexual acts or false promises.

Sedition Law Alteration:

  • Eliminates the sedition offense.
  • Penalizes activities related to secession, armed rebellion, or actions endangering national sovereignty or unity.

Death by Negligence:

  • Elevates the punishment for causing death by negligence from two to five years.
  • Doctors, if convicted, face a lower punishment of two years imprisonment.

Supreme Court Compliance:

  • Aligns with Supreme Court decisions by excluding adultery as an offense.
  • Introduces life imprisonment alongside the death penalty for murder or attempted murder by a life convict.
Criticisms of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (Second) – BNS2

Age of Criminal Responsibility:

  • The age of criminal responsibility remains at seven years, potentially extending to 12 years based on the accused’s maturity, raising concerns about alignment with international convention recommendations.

Inconsistency in Age Threshold:

  • Despite defining a child as someone below 18, the age threshold for various offenses against children, such as rape and gangrape, varies, leading to inconsistency.

Ambiguity in Sedition Elimination:

  • While BNS2 eliminates sedition as an offense, elements related to endangering India’s sovereignty, unity, and integrity might still retain aspects of sedition, posing concerns over potential ambiguity.

Retention of IPC Provisions on Sexual Offenses:

  • BNS2 retains the provisions of the IPC on rape and sexual harassment without considering recommendations from the Justice Verma Committee (2013), such as making the offense of rape gender-neutral and including marital rape as an offense.

Major Provisions of Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023 – BNSS2

Alterations for Undertrials:

  • Restricts release on personal bond for those accused in severe offenses, including life imprisonment cases and individuals facing multiple charges.

Broadened Scope of Medical Examinations:

  • Allows any police officer (not limited to sub-inspectors) to request medical examinations, enhancing accessibility.

Mandated Forensic Investigation:

  • Mandates forensic investigation for crimes punishable by at least seven years’ imprisonment.

Forensic Evidence Collection:

  • Requires forensic experts to collect evidence at crime scenes, recording the process electronically.
  • States lacking forensic facilities should utilize those in other states.

Extended Powers for Collection:

  • Extends the power to collect finger impressions and voice samples, even from individuals not under arrest, beyond the CrPC’s specimen signatures or handwriting orders.

Strict Timelines:

  • Imposes strict timelines, including medical reports for rape victims within 7 days, judgments within 30 days (extendable to 45), victim progress updates within 90 days, and charge framing within 60 days from the first hearing.

Elimination of Metropolitan Magistrates:

  • The BNSS2 eliminates the distinction of Metropolitan Magistrates and their role, previously allowed in cities with over a million people, as organized by the CrPC.
Criticisms of Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023 – BNSS2

Lack of Safeguards in Property Seizure:

  • The power to seize property from crime proceeds lacks the safeguards provided in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, raising concerns about potential misuse or lack of oversight.

Denial of Bail for Individuals Facing Multiple Charges:

  • While the CrPC allows bail for an accused detained for half the maximum imprisonment for an offense, the BNSS2 denies this facility for individuals facing multiple charges. This restriction may limit bail opportunities, particularly in cases involving multiple sections.

Permission for Handcuffs in Various Cases:

  • The BNSS2 permits the use of handcuffs in various cases, including organized crime, contradicting directives laid down by the Supreme Court.

Retention of CrPC Provisions on Public Order:

  • The BNSS2 retains CrPC provisions related to the maintenance of public order, raising questions about whether trial procedures and the maintenance of public order should be regulated under the same law or addressed separately.

Major Provisions of Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023 – BSB2

Documentary Evidence:

  • Definition Expansion:
    • Broadens the definition of documents to include electronic records alongside traditional writings, maps, and caricatures.
  • Primary and Secondary Evidence:
    • Primary evidence retains its status, encompassing original documents, electronic records, and video recordings.
    • Oral and written admissions, along with testimony from a qualified individual examining the documents, are now considered secondary evidence.

Oral Evidence:

  • Permits electronic provision of oral evidence, allowing witnesses, accused individuals, and victims to testify through electronic means.

Admissibility of Electronic Records:

  • Grants electronic or digital records equivalent legal status as paper records.
  • Includes information stored in semiconductor memory, smartphones, laptops, emails, server logs, locational evidence, and voicemails.

Amended Explanation to Joint Trials:

  • Joint trials now encompass cases where one accused is absent or has not responded to an arrest warrant, categorized as joint trials.
Criticism of Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023 – BSB2

Admissibility Distinction:

  • The BSB2 allows information to be admissible if obtained when the accused was in police custody but not if obtained outside, a distinction recommended for removal by the Law Commission.

Exclusion of Key Recommendations:

  • Several significant recommendations by the Law Commission, such as presuming police responsibility for injuries sustained by an accused in custody, have not been included in the BSB2.

Lack of Safeguards:

  • Despite the Supreme Court’s recognition of the potential tampering of electronic records, the BSB2 provides for their admissibility without adequate safeguards to prevent tampering and contamination during the investigation process.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, Bihar police arrested sand smugglers in a major crackdown against illegal sand mining.

Relevance:

GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Sand Mining: Overview and Sources in India
  2. Factors, Consequences, and Challenges in Sand Mining
  3. Initiatives to Prevent Sand Mining in India

Sand Mining: Overview and Sources in India

Definition: Sand mining involves the extraction of primary natural sand and sand resources, including mineral sands and aggregates, from various natural environments such as terrestrial, riverine, coastal, or marine areas. The extracted materials are often valuable minerals, metals, crushed stone, sand, and gravel, which are then processed for various purposes.

Threats and Impacts:

Sand mining, driven by various factors, poses serious threats to ecosystems and communities.

Sources of Sand in India:

Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines (SSMMG) 2016 identify the following sources of sand in India:

  • River: From riverbeds and flood plains.
  • Lakes and Reservoirs: Extraction from water bodies.
  • Agricultural Fields: Sand sourced from fields.
  • Coastal/Marine: Sand extracted from coastal and marine areas.
  • Palaeo-channels: Historical river channels.
  • Manufactured Sand (M-Sand): Artificially produced sand.

Factors, Consequences, and Challenges in Sand Mining

Factors Contributing to Illegal Sand Mining:
  • Inadequate Regulations and Enforcement: Weak regulatory frameworks and enforcement mechanisms.
  • Construction Industry Demand: High demand for sand in the construction industry.
  • Population Growth and Urbanization: Rapid urbanization and population growth drive construction needs.
  • Corruption and Sand Mafias: Influence of organized sand mafias and corrupt practices.
  • Collusion with Authorities: Collusion between authorities and illegal operators.
  • Limited Adoption of Alternatives: Insufficient adoption of sustainable alternatives like M-sand.
  • Ineffective Implementation of EIAs: Lack of effective Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs).
  • Limited Public Awareness: Insufficient public awareness and monitoring mechanisms.
Consequences of Sand Mining:
  • Altered Riverbeds: Changes in riverbeds, increased erosion, and disruption of habitats.
  • Stream Channel Instability: Loss of stability in stream channels, threatening native species.
  • Flooding and Sedimentation: Increased flooding and sedimentation in rivers and coastal areas.
  • Impact on Aquatic Ecosystems: Altered flow patterns and sediment loads negatively affect aquatic ecosystems.
  • Groundwater Table Depletion: Deep pits from mining can cause a drop in the groundwater table.
  • Water Scarcity: Affects local drinking water wells, contributing to water scarcity.
  • Habitat Disruption and Biodiversity Loss: Disruption of habitats leads to significant biodiversity loss.
Challenges:
  • Inadequate regulations, corruption, and lack of awareness contribute to the persistence of illegal sand mining, exacerbating environmental and societal consequences.

Initiatives to Prevent Sand Mining in India

Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Act, 1957 (MMDR Act):
  • Legal Classification: Sand is categorized as a “minor mineral” under the MMDR Act.
  • State Control: Administrative authority over minor minerals, including sand, rests with state governments.
  • Preventing Illegal Mining: Section 3(e) of the MMDR Act focuses on preventing illegal mining, empowering the government to implement measures against illicit practices.
  • Recent Amendment: The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2023, further strengthens regulations.
2006 Environment Impact Assessment (EIA):
  • Approval Mandate: The Supreme Court mandates approval for all sand mining activities, even in areas under 5 hectares.
  • Ecosystem Protection: Aimed at addressing the severe environmental impact of sand mining on ecosystems, including plants, animals, and rivers.
Sustainable Sand Management Guidelines (SSMG) 2016:
  • Issued by MoEFCC: Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • Objectives:
    • Environmentally sustainable and socially responsible mining.
    • Conservation of river equilibrium and natural environment.
    • Prevention of pollution in river water.
  • Avoidance of groundwater depletion.
Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining 2020:
  • Uniform Monitoring Protocol: Provides a consistent protocol for monitoring sand mining activities across India.
  • Coverage:
    • Identification of sand mineral sources.
    • Dispatch procedures.
    • End-use monitoring.
  • Technology Integration: Recommends the use of advanced surveillance technologies like drones and night vision for effective monitoring.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Recently, Wheebox in association with various agencies including All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Confederation of Indian Industry and Association of Indian Universities has published India Skills Report 2024, highlighting India’s skill landscape and the impact of AI (Artificial Intelligence) on the workforce

  • Theme: Impact of AI on the Future of Work, Skilling & Mobility.

Relevance:

GS III: Human Resources

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. India Skills Report 2024: Key Highlights

India Skills Report 2024: Key Highlights

AI Talent Landscape:

  • India stands out globally in AI skill penetration and talent concentration.
  • The country had 4.16 lakh AI professionals by August 2023, with an expected increase to 1 million by 2026.

Demand-Supply Gap in Key Roles:

  • There’s a 60%-73% demand-supply gap in critical roles like ML engineer, data scientist, DevOps engineer, and data architect.

Overall Young Employability:

  • Young employability has improved, reaching 51.25%.
  • States like Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, and Telangana exhibit high concentrations of highly employable youth.

Age-wise Employability Trends:

  • Different age groups demonstrate varying employability levels.
  • States like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra stand out for the 22 to 25 age group, while Telangana excels in the 18-21 age group.

City-wise Employability:

  • Pune leads in employable talent among 18-21 year-olds, followed by Bengaluru.
  • Lucknow leads in the 22-25 age group, followed by Mumbai.

Gender and Location Preferences:

  • Kerala is the most preferred state to work for both male and female employable talent.
  • Cochin is the top choice for female test takers.

Integration of AI in Learning:

  • AI integration in learning science is a key differentiator, enabling personalized, analytics-driven, and actionable insights for effective professional development.

Upskilling Initiatives:

  • Anticipation of increased investment in upskilling initiatives, especially focused on early career programs.
  • Significant hiring expected in early career segments.

Call for Collaborative Efforts:

  • Emphasis on collaborative efforts among government bodies, businesses, and educational institutions to address challenges and promote inclusive upskilling initiatives in the AI-driven transformative journey.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Women participation in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) was the highest in 10 financial years.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Health and Poverty related issues, Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Government Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
  2. How MGNREGA came to be?
  3. Features of MGNREGA
  4. Objectives of MGNREGA

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)

  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, MGNREGA, is an Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’. This act was passed in September 2005.
  • It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
  • It covers all districts of India except the ones with 100% urban population.
  • MGNREGA is to be implemented mainly by gram panchayats (GPs). The involvement of contractors is banned.
  • Apart from providing economic security and creating rural assets, NREGA can help in protecting the environment, empowering rural women, reducing rural-urban migration and fostering social equity, among others.
  • The MGNREGA wage rates are fixed according to changes in the CPI-AL (Consumer Price Index-Agriculture Labour), which reflects the increase in the inflation in rural areas.

How MGNREGA came to be?

  • In 1991, the P.V Narashima Rao government proposed a pilot scheme for generating employment in rural areas with the following goals:
    • Employment Generation for agricultural labour during the lean season.
    • Infrastructure Development
    • Enhanced Food Security
  • This scheme was called the Employment Assurance Scheme which later evolved into the MGNREGA after the merger with the Food for Work Programme in the early 2000s.
Features of MGNREGA
  • It gives a significant amount of control to the Gram Panchayats for managing public works, strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions.
  • Gram Sabhas are free to accept or reject recommendations from Intermediate and District Panchayats.
  • It incorporates accountability in its operational guidelines and ensures compliance and transparency at all levels.
Objectives of MGNREGA
  • Provide 100 days of guaranteed wage employment to rural unskilled labour
  • Increase economic security
  • Decrease migration of labour from rural to urban areas.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Prime Minister of India will participate in the Veer Bal Diwas function at Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Veer Bal Diwas
  2. About Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji

About Veer Bal Diwas:

  • On December 26, 1707, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh attained martyrdom when they were executed on the orders of Aurangzeb.

About Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji

  • Guru Gobind Singh, born Gobind Rai, was the tenth Sikh Guru, a spiritual master, warrior, poet and philosopher.
  • When his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was executed by Aurangzeb, Guru Gobind Singh was formally installed as the leader of the Sikhs at the age of nine, becoming the tenth and final human Sikh Guru.
  • His notable contribution to Sikhism is the establishment of the Khalsa in 1699.
  • The only son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna in December 1666.
  • He was educated in reading, writing, and also martial arts, archery and horse riding.
  • Not only was he a brave warrior, but he was also a great poet and philosopher.
  • His literary contributions include the Jaap Sahib, Benti Chaupai, Amrit Savaiye, etc.
  • He took part in many battles, particularly against the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb.
  • Guru Gobind Singh also wrote the Zafarnama which was a letter to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb is believed to have agreed to a meeting with the Guru but died before that.
  • The Guru along with his troops was stationed in the Deccan when two Afghan assassins commissioned by Wazir Khan gained access to the camp.
  • One of the assassins stabbed the Guru at Nanded.
  • The assassin was killed by the Guru while his accomplice was killed by Sikh guards.
  • Guru Gobind Singh died of wounds a few days later on 7 October 1708 aged 42.
  • After the Guru’s death, there ensued a long and bitter war between the Sikhs and the Mughals.
About Guru Gobind Singh Ji Contributions
  • Guru Gobind Singh’s most significant contribution was the institutionalizing of the Khalsa, which was a warrior community. An initiation ceremony called Amrit Pehul was created and rules were formulated for the Khalsa.
  • A male Khalsa was given the title ‘Singh’ and a female was given the title ‘Kaur’.
  • This code solidified the martial spirit of the Sikh community.
  • Guru Gobind Singh started the tradition of the Five K’s for the Khalsa.
  • The Five K’s are kesh (uncut hair), kanga (wooden comb), kara (iron or steel bracelet), kirpan (dagger) and kacchera (short breeches).
  • These were the five articles of faith that a Khalsa must always adorn.
  • The Guru also laid down many other rules for the Khalsa warriors to follow like abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, halal meat, etc. The Khalsa warrior was also duty-bound to protect innocent people from persecution.
  • Everyone was treated equally and caste was abolished.
  • The Khalsa tradition was responsible for converting the Sikhs into a strong and disciplined fighting group.
  • This also paved the way for the establishment of the Sikh Empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1799.
  • Another significant contribution of Guru Gobind Singh was the enshrining the Sikh scripture Granth Sahib as the eternal Guru of Sikhism. Thus, after his death, there were no more Gurus in human form.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

In an unprecedented extension of its celestial duties, the spacecraft that delivered asteroid samples from Bennu, OSIRIS-REx, has embarked on a new mission, and NASA has renamed it as OSIRIS-APEX.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. OSIRIS-APEX Mission: Exploring Changes in Asteroid Apophis
  2. Key Facts about Apophis

OSIRIS-APEX Mission: Exploring Changes in Asteroid Apophis

Mission Overview:
  • Purpose: Study the physical changes in asteroid Apophis during its close encounter with Earth in April 2029.
  • Close Approach: Apophis will come within 20,000 miles of Earth’s surface, closer than our highest-altitude satellites.
  • Mission Objectives: Observe changes induced by Earth’s gravitational pull, including alterations in orbit, rotation speed, and surface features.
OSIRIS-APEX Spacecraft:
  • Approach: The spacecraft will dip toward the surface of Apophis for close observations.

Key Facts about Apophis:

  • Discovery: Discovered on June 19, 2004.
  • Composition: Stony “S-type” asteroid with silicate material and a mix of metallic nickel and iron.
  • Origin: Remnant from the early solar system formation about 4.6 billion years ago.
  • Formation Location: Originated in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
  • Orbit Change: Influenced by large planets like Jupiter, Apophis now orbits the Sun closer to Earth.
  • Classification: Classified as a near-Earth asteroid due to its altered orbit.

-Source: Indian Today


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