Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Bhopal Gas Tragedy
- Defence Acquisition Council
- Section 6 A of Citizenship Act
- National Clean Air Programme
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Bhopal Gas Tragedy
Context: The Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) said it is not willing to pay a “farthing” more if a settlement with the Centre in 1989 is set aside by the Supreme Court even as a Constitution Bench asked the government why ₹50 crore of the $470 million paid by the company has still not reached the Bhopal gas leak tragedy victims after all these years.
About Bhopal Gas Tragedy
- Post-midnight on December 3, 1984, poisonous gas that leaked from the factory of Union Carbide (now known as Dow Chemicals) in Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal killed thousands of people directly. The incident is now known as the Bhopal disaster or Bhopal gas tragedy.
- It is estimated that about 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other chemicals leaked from the Union Carbide factory. Methyl isocyanate is extremely toxic and if its concentration in air touches 21ppm (parts per million), it can cause death within minutes of inhaling the gas. In Bhopal, the level was multiple times higher.
- It resulted in the death of 5,295 people, injuries to almost 5,68,292 persons besides loss of livestock and loss of property of almost 5,478 persons
- Earlier central government filed a curative petition for more compensation to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, over and above the $470 million paid by Union Carbide.
- The Centre, in a curative plea, has contended that the 1989 settlement is seriously impaired. It has sought additional funds of over ₹7,400 crore from the pesticide company. The government said there is fresh data of more human suffering caused by the incident.
- But the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) said it is not willing to pay a “farthing” more if a settlement with the Centre in 1989 is set aside by the Supreme Court even as a Constitution Bench asked the government why ₹50 crore of the $470 million paid by the company has still not reached the Bhopal gas leak tragedy victims after all these years.
About Curative Petition
- In the case, Rupa Ashok Hurra vs. Ashok Hurra and Anr (the year 2002), evaluation of Indian concept of Curative Petition took place by the Supreme Court of India.
- The question was raised that any relief should be given to the aggrieved person against the final order and judgment of the Supreme Court, after the dismissal of a petition of review.
- In this case, Supreme Court of India held that to prevent the abuse of court process and to cure or remove the miscarriage of justice, the court may reconsider its final judgment and order in exercise of its inherent powers. The court for this purpose devised that what has been termed as ‘Curative Petition’.
- The petitioner of the case must allege as a fact to support his or her plea that the mentioned grounds has been taken in the earlier filed review petition and which is by the circulation it was dismissed. This thing must be certified by a Senior Advocate.
- Then Curative Petition is circulated to the three senior judges and to the judges who have given their judgment if they are available. For filing the curative petition, no time limit is given.
Conditions laid down by the court to entertain the curative petition
- The petitioner has to provide the genuine reason by which violation of natural justice can be established and fear of biases of the judge and his or her judgment has affected him adversely.
- In the petition, there shall be specifically mentioned grounds that it had been taken for review petition and was dismissed in the process of circulation.
- The Curative Petition shall be certified by the senior lawyers, or an advocate related to fulfilment of the requirements.
- The petition is sent to three senior judges and to the judges who have given their judgment which affected the petition, if available.
- If the majority of the judges agrees that matter of the case needs the hearing, then as far as possible it is sent to the same bench.
- An Even court can impose “emergency costs” to the petitioner if his plea does not meet the following condition and requirement.
2 . Defence Acquisition Council
Context: Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for three capital acquisition proposals amounting to ₹4,276 crore. These include Helicopter launched Nag (HELINA) Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM), Very Short-Range Air Defence Systems (VSHORAD) and BrahMos cruise missile launchers and Fire Control Systems (FCS) for naval ships. All three are indigenous design and development projects.
About Defence Acquisition Council
- Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) under the Defence Minister was constituted for overall guidance of the defence procurement planning process.
- It was constituted based on the Group of Ministers recommendations on “Reforming the National Security System,”
- Defence Minister: Chairman
- Minister of State for Defence: Member
- Chief of Army Staff: Member
- Chief of Naval Staff: Member
- Chief of Air Staff: Member
- Defence Secretary: Member
- Secretary Defence Research & Development: Member
- Secretary Defence Production: Member
- Chief of Integrated Staff Committees HQ IDS: Member
- Director General (Acquisition): Member
- Dy. Chief of Integrated Defence: Staff Member Secretary
- The objective of the Defence Acquisition Council is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces in terms of capabilities sought and time frame prescribed by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources.
- The functions of the DAC in principle approval of 15 Years Long Terms Integrated Perspective Plan for Defence Forces
- Accord of Acceptance of Necessity to acquisition proposals;
- Categorization of the acquisition proposals relating to ‘Buy’, ‘Buy & Make’ and ‘Make’;
- Issues relating to Single vendor clearance;
- Decision regarding ‘offset’ provisions in respect of acquisition proposals above Rs. 300 crores;
- Decisions regarding Transfer of Technology under ‘Buy & Make’ category of acquisition proposals
- Field Trial evaluation.
About the News
- The DAC accorded AoN for procurement of HELINA ATGMs, launchers and associated support equipment which will be integrated to the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH). This missile is an essential part of weaponisation of ALH for countering enemy threat
- The HELINA and Dhruvastra being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are third generation, Lock on Before Launch fire and forget ATGMs meant for the indigenous ALH and the Light Combat Helicopter. Helina is the Army variant and Dhruvastra is the Air Force variant.
- The DAC also accorded AoN for procurement of VSHORAD (IR Homing) missile system under design and development by the DRDO.
- The DAC also granted approval for procurement of BrahMos launcher and FCS for the Shivalik class of ships and Next Generation Missile Vessels for the Navy. With their induction, these ships would have enhanced capability of carrying out maritime strike operations, interdicting and destroying enemy’s warships and merchant vessels.
3 . Section 6 A of Citizenship Act
Context: A Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud said it will first take up for preliminary determination whether Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 suffers from any “constitutional infirmity”.
About Section 6A of the Citizenship Act
- Section 6A was a special provision inserted into the 1955 Act in furtherance of a Memorandum of Settlement called the ‘Assam Accord’ signed on August 15, 1985 by the then Rajiv Gandhi government with the leaders of the Assam Movement to preserve and protect the Assamese culture, heritage, linguistic and social identity.
- The Accord came at the end of a six-year-long agitation by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) to identify and deport illegal immigrants, mostly from neighbouring Bangladesh, from the State.
- Under Section 6A, foreigners who had entered Assam before January 1, 1966, and been “ordinarily resident” in the State, would have all the rights and obligations of Indian citizens. Those who had entered the State between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 would have the same rights and obligations except that they would not be able to vote for 10 years.
About the case
- Petitions were filed challenging the “discriminatory” nature of Section 6A in granting citizenship to immigrants, illegal ones at that.
- The petitioners, including Assam Public Works and others, argued that the special provision violated Article 6 of the Constitution, which fixed the cut-off date for granting citizenship to immigrants on July 19, 1948.
- On December 2014, the Supreme Court had framed 13 questions covering various issues raised against the constitutionality of Section 6A, including whether the provision diluted the “political rights of the citizens of the State of Assam”; whether it was a violation of the rights of the Assamese people to conserve their cultural rights; whether an influx of illegal migrants in India constitute ‘external aggression’ and ‘internal disturbance’, among others.
- In 2015, a three-judge Bench of the court had referred the case to a Constitution Bench.
- All these years, the ‘Section 6A’ case had waited out even as the Supreme Court monitored the preparation and publication of the final Assam NRC list in August 2019, which saw the exclusion of over 19 lakh people. The Assam NRC authority has now approached the court seeking a re-verification. The past years also saw the enactment of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which allowed accelerated citizenship to immigrants who belong to minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
About Assam Accord
- The Assam Accord, a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS), signed in the early hours of August 15, 1985, by the Union government, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad ended the six-year bloody agitation (1979-1985) to detect, disenfranchise and deport “illegal” residents from the State.
- It also altered the nature and perception of India’s federal characteristics and left an indelible imprint on the issue of citizenship in the country.
- At the core of the Assam Accord was the “Foreigners Issue” in Clause 5 of the MoS. It states that all persons who came to Assam prior to 1.1.1966 shall be regularised.
- Those who came between 1.1.1966 and March 24, 1971, shall be detected in accordance with the relevant laws and removed from the electoral rolls for 10 years. On the expiry of 10 years, the names of all such persons shall be restored in the electoral rolls
4 . National Clean Air Programme
Context: Four years since the introduction of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) — India’s first national policy on curbing air pollution — air quality has improved in only 49 out of 131 cities in FY 21-22, compared to the previous year, according to a report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).
About National Clean Air Programme
- The National Clean Air Programme is a pollution control initiative that was launched by the Ministry of Environment with the intention to cut the concentration of coarse (particulate matter of diameter 10 micrometre or less, or PM10) and fine particles (particulate matter of diameter 2.5 micrometres or less, or PM2.5) by at least 20% in the next five years, with 2017 as the base year for comparison.
Which cities will fall under this?
- The NCAP, announced four years ago, covers 132 of India’s most polluted or so-called non-attainment cities. This is defined as a city whose air quality did not meet the national ambient air quality standards of 2011 to 2015.
- To augment and evolve effective and proficient ambient air quality monitoring network across the country for ensuring comprehensive and reliable database
- To have efficient data dissemination and public outreach mechanism for timely measures for prevention and mitigation of air pollution and for inclusive public participation in both planning and implementation of the programmes and policies of government on air pollution
- To have feasible management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
- The NCAP has set a target of reducing key air pollutants PM10 and PM2.5 (ultra-fine particulate matter) by 20-30% in 2024 taking the pollution levels in 2017 as the base year to improve upon.
- This is an interim target as the reduction needed to meet air quality standards in many cities is more than 30%.
Action Plans under NCAP
- Preparation of national level plan includes convergence of schemes/programmes of different Ministries/Departments
- Preparation of State Action Plans in 24 states
- Preparation of City level action plans in 131 cities
- The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) is an independent research organisation focused on understanding the trends, causes, health impacts and solutions to air pollution.
- CREA uses scientific data, research and evidence to support the efforts of governments, companies and organizations worldwide in their efforts to move towards clean energy and clean air, believing that effective research and communication are the keys to successful policies, investment decisions and advocacy efforts.
- CREA was founded in December 2019 and has staff in several Asian and European countries.
Key Findings of the Report
- The NCAP, announced four years ago, covers 132 of India’s most polluted cities. Air quality has improved in only 49 out of 131 cities in FY 21-22, compared to the previous year,
- Only 38 of the 131 cities that were given annual pollution reduction targets under agreements signed between State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs), Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and the Centre managed to meet the targets for FY21-22
- Moreover, only 37 out of 131 cities, CREA noted, have completed the source apportionment studies (which list out and quantify the major sources of pollution in a city) to be completed in 2020. “Almost all of these reports still lack public availability and no city action plan has been updated with new findings of the report as it was envisaged in the NCAP when it was launched in January 2019
- CREA estimates India will need to install more than 300 manual air quality monitoring stations per year to reach the NCAP goal of 1,500 monitoring stations by 2024. So far, only 180 stations were installed over the past four years.
5 . Ozone Hole
Context : The ozone ‘hole’, once considered to be the gravest danger to planetary life, is now expected to be completely repaired by 2066, a scientific assessment has suggested. In fact, it is only the ozone layer over Antarctica — where the hole is the most prominent — which will take a long time to heal completely. Over the rest of the world, the ozone layer is expected to be back to where it was in 1980 by 2040 itself, a UN-backed scientific panel has reported.
Damage to the ozone layer
- The depletion of the ozone layer, first noticed in the early 1980s, used to be the biggest environmental threat before climate change came along. Ozone (chemically, a molecule having three Oxygen atoms, or O3) is found mainly in the upper atmosphere, an area called stratosphere, between 10 and 50 km from the Earth’s surface. It is critical for planetary life, since it absorbs ultraviolet rays coming from the Sun. UV rays are known to cause skin cancer and many other diseases and deformities in plants and animals.
- Though the problem is commonly referred to as the emergence of a ‘hole’ in the ozone layer, it is actually just a reduction in concentration of the ozone molecules. Even in the normal state, ozone is present in extremely low concentrations in the stratosphere. Where the ‘layer’ is supposed to be the thickest, there are no more than a few molecules of ozone for every million air molecules.
- In the 1980s, scientists began to notice a sharp drop in the concentration of ozone. This drop was much more pronounced over the South Pole, which was later linked to the unique meteorological conditions — temperature, pressure, wind speed and direction — that prevail over Antarctica. The ozone hole over Antarctica is the biggest during the months of September, October, and November.
- By the middle of 1980s, scientists had figured out that the chief cause of ozone depletion was the use of a class of industrial chemicals that contained chlorine, bromine or fluorine. The most common of these were the chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, that were used extensively in the airconditioning, refrigeration, paints, and furniture industries.
Improvement in the situation
- The ozone hole has been steadily improving since 2000, thanks to the effective implementation of the Montreal Protocol.
- The recovery of the ozone layer has been made possible by the successful elimination of some harmful industrial chemicals, together referred to as Ozone Depleting Substances or ODSs, through the implementation of the 1989 Montreal Protocol. The assessment has reported that nearly 99 per cent of the substances banned by the Montreal Protocol have now been eliminated from use, resulting in a slow but definite recovery of the ozone layer.
- The latest scientific assessment has said that if current policies continued to be implemented, the ozone layer was expected to recover to 1980 values by 2066 over Antarctica, by 2045 over the Arctic, and by 2040 for the rest of the world.
- The elimination of ozone-depleting substances has an important climate change co-benefit as well. These substances also happen to be powerful greenhouse gases, several of them hundreds or even thousands of times more dangerous than carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas and the main driver of global warming. The report said that global compliance to the Montreal Protocol would ensure the avoidance of 0.5 to 1 degree Celsius of warming by 2050. This means that if the use of CFCs and other similar chemicals had continued to grow the way it did before they were banned, the world would have been 0.5 to 1 degree Celsius warmer than it already is.
- In fact, it was with this climate change objective in mind that the Montreal Protocol was amended in 2016 to extend its mandate over hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, that have replaced the CFCs in industrial use. HFCs do not cause much damage to the ozone layer — the reason they were not originally banned — but are very powerful greenhouse gases. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol seeks to eliminate 80-90 per cent of the HFCs currently in use by the year 2050. This is expected to prevent another 0.3 to 0.5 degree Celsius of global warming by the turn of the century.
Precedent for climate action
- The success of the Montreal Protocol in repairing the ozone hole is often offered as a model for climate action. It is argued that emissions of greenhouse gases can also similarly be curtailed to arrest rapidly rising global temperatures.
- However, the parallels of elimination of ODSs with greenhouse gases are limited. The use of ODSs, though extensive, was restricted to some specific industries. Their replacements were readily available, even if at a slightly higher cost initially. The impact of banning these ozone-depleting chemicals was therefore limited to these specific sectors. With some incentives, these sectors have recovered from the initial disruption and are thriving again.
- The case of fossil fuels is very different. Emission of carbon dioxide is inextricably linked to the harnessing of energy. Almost every economic activity leads to carbon dioxide emissions. Even the so-called renewable energies, like solar or wind, have considerable carbon footprints right now, because their manufacturing, transport, and operation involves the use of fossil fuels.
- The emissions of methane, the other major greenhouse gas, comes mainly from agricultural practices and livestock. The impact of restraining greenhouse gas emissions is not limited to a few industries or economic sectors, but affects the entire economy, and also has implications for the quality of life, human lifestyles and habits and behaviours. Climate change, no doubt, is a far more difficult and complex problem than dealing with ozone depletion.
PRIOR TO 1979, scientists had not observed atmospheric ozone concentrations below 220 Dobson Units (DU; measure of the total amount of ozone in a vertical column of air above the Earth’s surface). In the early 1980s, scientists using ground-based and satellite measurements began to realise that the Earth’s natural sunscreen was thinning dramatically over the South Pole each spring. This thinning of the ozone layer over Antarctica came to be known as the ozone hole. The stratospheric ozone layer protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet light, which damages DNA in plants and animals (including humans) and leads to sunburns and skin cancer.
THE IMAGES above have been picked from a series published by NASA showing the size and shape of the ozone hole every year from 1979 through 2019. The measurements were made from 1979-2004 by NASA’s Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer instruments; from 2005-11 by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute’s Ozone Monitoring Instrument (which flies on NASA’s Aura satellite); and from 2012-19 by the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite on the NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP satellite. Red and yellow areas in the images indicate the ozone hole. The maps show the ozone hole on the day the lowest ozone concentrations were measured each year.
IN 1979, the maximum depth of the hole was 194 Dobson Units (DU). In 1982, it fell to 173 DU, in 1983 to 154 DU, and in 1985 to 124 DU.
IN 1991, ozone concentration fell below 100 DU for the first time. The deepest hole was in 1994, when concentrations fell to 73 DU on Sept 30.
6 . Facts for Prelims
All India Presiding Officers’ Conference
- The All India Presiding Officers’ Conference (AIPOC) is the apex body of the Legislatures in India that completed its hundred years in 2021.
- The first Conference was also held in Shimla in 1921.
- The 82nd session was held at Shimla and the 83rd All India Presiding Officers’ Conference will be held in Jaipur on 11th January 2023.
- This is the fourth time that the Conference is being organized in the city of Jaipur.
- The upcoming 83rd session will focus on following themes of contemporary relevance in its day long discussions –
- Leadership of India in G-20 as the mother of democracy
- The need to make Parliament and Legislature more Effective, Accountable and Productive
- Integration of State Legislatures with Digital Parliament
- The need to maintain a harmonious relationship between the Legislature and the Judiciary in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution.
- Parliament routinely delegates certain functions to authorities established by law since every aspect cannot be dealt with directly by the law makers themselves. This delegation of powers is noted in statutes, which are commonly referred to as delegated legislations.
- The delegated legislation would specify operational details, giving power to those executing the details. Regulations and by-laws under legislations are classic examples of delegated legislation.
- A 1973 Supreme Court ruling explains the concept as: “The practice of empowering the Executive to make subordinate legislation within a prescribed sphere has evolved out of practical necessity and pragmatic needs of a modern welfare State. At the same time it has to be borne in mind that our Constitution-makers have entrusted the power of legislation to the representatives of the people, so that the said power may be exercised not only in the name of the people but also by the people speaking through their representatives. The role against excessive delegation of legislative authority flows from and is a necessary postulate of the sovereignty of the people.”
- The IMD marks a cold wave in terms of minimum temperatures – when the minimum temperature in the plains is 4 degrees or less or when the minimum temperature is less than 10 degrees and 4.5 to 6.4 degrees below the normal.
- The necropolis of noblemen dating from the Asaf Jahi era known as Paigah Tombs Complex in Santosh Nagar is set to be restored with funding by the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.
- US Chargé d’Affaires (CDA) ambassador A. Elizabeth Jones said that the $250,000 grant will fund the restoration process.
- The Paigah tombs or Maqhbara Shams al-Umara is a necropolis belonging to the nobility of the Paigah family who served the Nizam of Hyderabad in various capacities.
- The Paigahs were among the most influential and powerful families of Hyderabad in the 18th century.
- The tombs, comprising the resting place of several generations of Paigah nobles, are at least two centuries old and the complex of tombs, made of lime and mortar as well as marble, remains one of the major attractions in Hyderabad for their architectural flamboyance and craftsmanship.
- Since the time of the second Nizam of Hyderabad, the Paigahs were given the responsibility to take care of the security and defence of the region.
- The tombs are the finest examples of the enthralling Indo-Islamic architecture, which is a blend of both features of Asaf Jahi and Rajputana style