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Current Affairs 29 April 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Left Wing Extremism in Chhattisgarh
  2. Information Technology Amendment Rules, 2023
  3. Eco-sensitive zones
  4. PRET Initiative
  5. Seamounts

Left Wing Extremism in Chhattisgarh


Context:

Recently, ten personnel of the Chhattisgarh Police’s District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the civilian driver of their vehicle were reported killed in an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attack by Maoists in the state’s Dantewada district.

  • The incident marks the first major Maoist attack in the state since April 2021, when 22 security forces personnel were killed in a similar attack.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Left-Wing Extremism
  2. LWE Situation in Chhattisgarh and India
  3. Challenges in Tackling LWE
  4. Government Initiatives to Control LWE:

Left-Wing Extremism

Left-wing extremism (LWE) is a political ideology that aims to bring about radical socialist, communist, or anarchist ideas through violent means. Here are some key facts about LWE:

  • LWE advocates the use of violence and terrorism to achieve its goals, which often include opposition to capitalism, imperialism, and the established political and social order.
  • LWE seeks to establish a revolutionary socialist or communist state and may target government institutions, law enforcement agencies, or private property to further its agenda.
  • LWE is considered a threat to national security and stability by many governments and law enforcement agencies, which often take measures to combat it.
  • LWE has been responsible for numerous acts of violence and terrorism around the world, including attacks on civilians, government officials, and law enforcement personnel.
  • Some examples of LWE groups include the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the Red Army Faction (RAF) in Germany.

LWE Situation in Chhattisgarh and India

LWE Situation in Chhattisgarh:
  • Chhattisgarh is the only state in India where Maoists still have a significant presence and retain the capability to mount big attacks.
  • Chhattisgarh has accounted for more than 1/3rd of all Maoist-related violence in the last 5 years (2018-22), and had a share of 70%-90% of total deaths due to the same.
  • The state continues to remain troubled, as eradicating LWE started comparatively late and by the time neighbouring states had already pushed Maoists to Chhattisgarh, making it a concentrated zone of Maoist influence.
  • The lack of connectivity, infrastructure, and minimal presence of administration in Bastar has ensured that Maoists continue to have influence in the region and enjoy local support through a mix of fear and goodwill.
Current LWE Situation in India
  • The government claims that Maoist violence in the country has decreased by 77% since 2010.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) reports that the number of resultant deaths (security forces + civilians) has decreased by 90% from the all-time high of 1,005 in 2010 to 98 in 2022.
  • The influence of Maoists and associated violence has been consistently falling in the country due to several factors:
    • A stronger push by security forces in Maoist strongholds.
    • Roads and civic amenities reaching the interior to a greater extent than earlier.
    • A general disenchantment with the Maoist ideology among the youth, which has deprived the insurgent movement of new leadership.

Challenges in Tackling LWE

  • Inaccessible terrain: LWE groups operate in remote and inaccessible areas such as dense forests and hilly terrains, which makes it challenging for security forces to track them down.
  • Support from local communities: LWE groups often enjoy the support of local communities who feel neglected and marginalized by the government. This support provides shelter and aids in recruitment, making it harder for security forces to operate.
  • Underdeveloped areas: LWE affected areas are often underdeveloped with inadequate access to basic amenities. This lack of development creates a fertile ground for extremist ideologies.
  • Political support: LWE groups often have the support of certain political parties and leaders who use them for their own interests, making it challenging for the government to take a strong stance against them without risking political backlash.

Government Initiatives to Control LWE:

  • SAMADHAN Doctrine: One-stop solution for LWE problem comprising of short-term and long-term policies formulated at different levels. SAMADHAN stands for Smart Leadership, Aggressive Strategy, Motivation and Training, Actionable Intelligence, Dashboard Based KPIs and KRAs, Harnessing Technology, Action plan for each Theatre, and No access to Financing.
  • National Policy and Action Plan in 2015: Multi-pronged approach comprising security measures, development initiatives, and ensuring rights & entitlements of local communities.
  • Support to State Governments: Extensive support provided by MHA through deployment of Central Armed Police Force Battalions, provision of helicopters and UAVs, and sanction of India Reserve Battalions/Special India Reserve Battalions.
  • Funds: Funds provided under Modernization of Police Force, Security Related Expenditure Scheme, and Special Infrastructure Scheme for modernization and training of State Police. Funds for development also provided to most LWE affected districts under the Special Central Assistance scheme.
  • Aspirational Districts Programme: Launched in 2018, aims to rapidly transform districts that have shown relatively lesser progress in key social areas.
  • Operation Green Hunt: Started in 2009-10, massive deployment of security forces was done in the naxal-affected areas.
  • Bastariya Battalion: In Chhattisgarh, CRPF raised a Bastariya Battalion, recruits taken from the local population who knew the language and terrain and could generate intelligence. This unit now has 400 recruits and regularly conducts operations in Chhattisgarh.

-Source: Indian Express


Information Technology Amendment Rules, 2023


Context:

Recently, the Bombay High Court has said the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Amendment Rules, 2023 does not seem to offer protection to fair criticism of the government through parody or satire.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Information Technology Amendment Rules, 2023
  2. Concerns regarding IT Rules, 2023

About Information Technology Amendment Rules, 2023

The Information Technology Amendment Rules, 2023 have several provisions aimed at regulating online content and activities. These rules include:

  • No platform can allow harmful unapproved online games and their advertisements.
  • Sharing false information about the Indian government is prohibited as confirmed by a fact-checking unit.
  • Platforms should make reasonable efforts to not host content related to the Central Government that is identified as fake or misleading by a fact-check unit.
  • Online gaming platforms will have to register with a Self-Regulatory Body (SRB) to ensure the games are permissible.
  • Online games should not involve gambling or betting elements and should comply with legal requirements, standards, and safety precautions such as parental controls.
  • If any information is marked as fake, intermediaries will be required to take it down, or they risk losing their safe harbour protection.
  • Social media sites will have to take down such posts, and internet service providers will have to block URLs of such content.

Key IT Rules of 2021:

  • Social media platforms must exercise greater diligence with respect to the content on their platforms.
  • Intermediaries must remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of content that exposes private areas of individuals, shows individuals in full or partial nudity or in sexual act, or is in the nature of impersonation including morphed images, etc.
  • Social media platforms must ensure that their privacy policies educate users about not circulating copyrighted material and anything that can be construed as defamatory, racially or ethnically objectionable, paedophilic, threatening the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India or friendly relations with foreign states, or violative of any contemporary law.

Concerns regarding IT Rules, 2023

The Information Technology Amendment Rules, 2023 have raised concerns about the potential for government censorship and arbitrary exercise of power.

Lack of clear definition of “fake news”
  • The amendment fails to define “fake news”, leaving room for arbitrary determination by the government’s fact-check unit.
  • The phrase “in respect of any business” gives the government unchecked power to decide what content can be accessed online.
Concerns about arbitrary power and censorship
  • Intermediaries are required to remove information deemed false by the Fact Check Unit, effectively leaving the state as the sole determiner of what is true or false.
  • The IT Rules give the government the power to decide what information is bogus and exercise censorship by compelling intermediaries to take down posts deemed fake or false.
Shreya Singhal vs Union of India (2015) case
  • The Supreme Court held that a law that limits speech cannot be vague or over-broad.
  • The lack of clear definitions and guidelines in the IT Rules, 2023 raises concerns about potential violations of free speech and expression.

-Source: The Hindu


Eco-Sensitive Zones


Context:

The Supreme Court has changed its previous ruling on Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) around protected forests. The new ruling states that ESZs cannot be the same across the entire country and must be customized to fit the specific protected area.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Earlier SC Judgement on ESZ
  2. Modified Order by SC
  3. What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?
  4. Activities Allowed in ESZs
  5. How are they demarcated?

Earlier SC Judgement on ESZ

  • In June 2022, the SC directed ESZs of a minimum of one kilometer around protected forests, national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries.
  • The purpose was to prevent encroachment, illegal mining, construction, and other activities that could harm the environment and wildlife.
  • The Centre and the States were to notify the ESZs within 6 months and file compliance reports.
Arguments by Centre and States for Challenging It
  • ESZs cannot be uniform across the country and need to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
  • Geographical features, population density, land use patterns, and other factors of each protected area need to be taken into account.
  • The order would hamper the development activities and livelihoods of the people living in the ESZs, as well as the conservation efforts of the forest departments.

Modified Order by SC

  • The SC agreed with the Centre and States and modified its previous order by saying that ESZs need to be tailored to the specific protected area.
  • The purpose of declaring ESZs is to protect the environment and wildlife, not to hamper the day-to-day activities of citizens.
  • A strict observance of the previous order would cause more harm than good, increasing man-animal conflict, preventing basic amenities, and hindering eco-development activities.
  • The Centre and States should notify ESZs as per their own proposals or as per recommendations of expert committees within 6 months.
  • Mining within national parks/wildlife sanctuaries and within an area of 1 km from their boundary shall not be permissible.

What are Eco-Sensitive Zones?

  • Eco Sensitive Zones are fragile areas around protected areas declared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • They are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  • Among activities prohibited in the eco-sensitive zone are hydroelectric projects, brick kilns, commercial use of firewood and discharge of untreated effluents in natural water bodies or land areas.
  • No new commercial hotels and resorts shall be permitted within 1 km of the boundary of the protected area or up to the extent of the eco-sensitive zone, whichever is nearer, except for small temporary structures for eco-tourism activities.

Activities Allowed in ESZs

  • Prohibited activities: Commercial mining, saw mills, industries causing pollution (air, water, soil, noise etc), establishment of major hydroelectric projects (HEP), commercial use of wood, Tourism activities like hot-air balloons over the National Park, discharge of effluents or any solid waste or production of hazardous substances.
  • Regulated activities: Felling of trees, establishment of hotels and resorts, commercial use of natural water, erection of electrical cables, drastic change of agriculture system, e.g. adoption of heavy technology, pesticides etc, widening of roads.
  • Permitted activities: Ongoing agricultural or horticultural practices, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, use of renewable energy sources, adoption of green technology for all activities.

How are they demarcated?

  • The term “Eco-Sensitive Zones” is not mentioned in the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986.
  • Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, on the other hand, states that the Central Government has the authority to limit the areas in which any industry, operation, or process, or class of industries, operations, or processes, may be carried out or not, subject to certain safeguards.
  • Besides to Rule 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 stipulates that the central government has the authority to ban or restrict the location of industries and the conduct of certain operations or processes based on specified factors.
  • The government has declared No Development Zones based on the same grounds (NDZs).

-Source: The Hindu


PRET Initiative


Context:

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched the PRET initiative to be better prepared for future outbreaks of a similar scale and devastation as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. PRET Initiative
  2. About WHO

PRET Initiative:

  • The Preparedness and Resilience for Emerging Threats (PRET) Initiative aims to provide guidance on integrated planning for responding to any respiratory pathogen such as influenza or coronaviruses.
  • The initiative was announced at the Global Meeting for Future Respiratory Pathogen Pandemics held on 24-26 April 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland. Its first module focuses on respiratory pathogens, including influenza, coronaviruses, and respiratory syncytial virus.
The Three-Pronged Approach of the PRET Initiative:
  1. Update Preparedness Plans: The first approach is to update preparedness plans that affirm priority actions and have considered learnings from past events.
  2. Increase Connectivity Among Stakeholders: The second approach is to increase connectivity among stakeholders in pandemic preparedness planning through systematic coordination and cooperation. This includes building equitable systems, conducting joint exercises, and sharing information on good practices, challenges, and opportunities.
  3. Dedicate Sustained Investments: The third approach is to dedicate sustained investments, financing, and monitoring of pandemic preparedness, with a particular focus on addressing the gaps identified during past pandemics and epidemics.

About WHO

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is responsible for international public health.
  • It was established in 1948 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. WHO works with governments and other partners around the world to achieve better health outcomes for everyone, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized populations.
Mandate and Functions of WHO:

WHO’s mandate is to provide leadership on global health matters, to shape the health research agenda, to set norms and standards, to articulate evidence-based policy options, to provide technical support to countries, and to monitor and assess health trends. Its functions include:

  • Providing technical assistance and support to countries in developing and implementing health policies and programs.
  • Setting norms and standards for health and health-related issues such as infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, and nutrition.
  • Conducting research and providing evidence-based guidance and recommendations to improve health outcomes.
  • Coordinating and supporting global health initiatives and partnerships, including the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the Global Malaria Program, and the Global Health Security Agenda.
  • Responding to emergencies and outbreaks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, by providing guidance, technical support, and coordination.
WHO’s Structure:
  • WHO is governed by the World Health Assembly, which is made up of representatives from all member states.
  • The Assembly meets annually to set policies, approve budgets, and determine the organization’s priorities.
  • The Assembly also elects the Director-General, who is the chief executive officer of the organization.
  • WHO’s work is organized into six regional offices, which are responsible for implementing the organization’s policies and programs at the regional level. The regional offices work closely with member states and other partners to address regional health challenges and to promote the organization’s global health agenda.

-Source: Down to Earth


Seamounts


Context:

Recently, in an astonishing discovery, scientists have reported finding 19,325 new seamounts after poring through new high-resolution data.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Seamounts
  2. About Mid-Atlantic Ridge

About Seamounts:

Seamounts are underwater mountains that form through volcanic activity.

  • They are recognised as hotspots for marine life and have significance for geologists and oceanographers.
  • Formation of Seamounts Seamounts are formed near mid-ocean ridges, where the earth’s tectonic plates are moving apart, allowing molten rock to rise to the seafloor.
  • They can also be found near intraplate hotspots and oceanic island chains with volcanic and seismic activity.
Significance of Seamounts
  • Seamounts provide valuable information about the mantle’s composition and the evolution of tectonic plates.
  • Oceanographers also study seamounts to understand their influence on how water circulates and absorbs heat and carbon dioxide.
  • Furthermore, seamounts are home to diverse biological communities.
  • They are good places for life because they can cause localised ocean upwelling – the process by which nutrient-rich water from deep within the ocean moves up to the surface.
Location of Seamounts
  • The planet’s two most-studied mid-ocean ridges are the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the East Pacific Rise. These regions are known for having many seamounts.
  • Some seamounts have also been found near intraplate hotspots and oceanic island chains with volcanic and seismic activity called island arcs.
About Mid-Atlantic Ridge
  • The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a massive underwater mountain range that runs through the Atlantic Ocean from north to south, separating the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates on one side from the South American and African plates on the other.
  • It is a divergent plate boundary where new oceanic crust is formed as the plates move away from each other.

Some important facts about the Mid-Atlantic Ridge are:

Formation:
  • The Mid-Atlantic Ridge was formed due to the divergence of the tectonic plates that form the ocean floor.
  • As the plates move apart, magma rises up from the mantle to fill the gap, creating new crust.
  • This process of seafloor spreading has been ongoing for millions of years, resulting in the formation of a massive underwater mountain range.
Length:
  • The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the longest mountain range in the world, stretching over 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean near Antarctica.
Features:
  • The ridge is characterized by a central rift valley, where magma rises to create new crust, and a series of steep-sided peaks and valleys that run along either side of the rift valley.
  • These peaks are called abyssal hills and are formed due to the cooling and solidification of magma that rises up from the mantle.
Volcanic Activity:
  • The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is also a site of frequent volcanic activity.
  • The magma that rises up to form new crust often erupts onto the seafloor, creating underwater volcanoes and lava flows.
  • While most of these eruptions are relatively small and harmless, some can be quite explosive and dangerous.
Importance:
  • The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a site of ongoing scientific research, with scientists studying its geology, biology, and oceanography. It is also an important location for deep-sea exploration, as it provides access to some of the most remote and unexplored parts of the ocean floor.
  • Finally, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge has significant economic importance due to its mineral deposits, including copper, zinc, and other metals, which are mined by some countries for industrial use.

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