Daily Current Affairs : 19th and 20th April 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. UN Report on India’s population
  2. Quantum mission
  3. YZ Ceti b
  4. Article 371 A
  5. Civil Union & Special Marriages Act
  6. National Mission for Clean Ganga
  7. Facts for Prelims

1 . UN Report on India’s Population

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’, released on April 19. In November 2022, the UN had announced that the world’s population had crossed the 8 billion mark.

What are the highlights of the report?

  • The UNFPA has said the population of the world is 8,045 million, of which the largest share (65%) is of people between the ages of 15 and 64 years, followed by those in the 10-24 years group (24%). 10 per cent of the population is above 65 years of age.
  • According to the UN’s 2022 report, the world’s two most populous regions are Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, with 2.3 billion people, representing 29 per cent of the global population; and Central and Southern Asia, with 2.1 billion (26 per cent).
  • China and India accounted for the largest populations in these regions, with more than 1.4 billion each in 2022.
  • Central and Southern Asia is expected to become the most populous region in the world by 2037.
  • Earlier UN reports had said that the population growth in South Asia will begin to decline before 2100. The latest UN projections suggest that the global population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100.
  • More than half of the projected increase in global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in eight countries — the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania.
  • Countries of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to continue growing through 2100 and to contribute more than half of the global population increase anticipated through 2050.

What is the outlook for population growth?

  • The 2023 report has said that while numbers will continue to grow for several decades, latest projections suggest that the rate of global population growth has fallen and has been at less than 1 per cent since 2020.
  • This is largely due to declining fertility; around two thirds of people live in a country or area with a total fertility rate at or below 2.1 children per woman  In 1950 the global fertility rate stood at 5.
  • It is international migration that is now the driver of growth in many countries. Migration has also occurred due to war, famines, and other catastrophes, it has pointed out.
  • South Asia clocks some of the highest emigration trends, according to the report, with India seeing an estimated net outflow of 3.5 million between 2010 and 2021. Pakistan has the highest net flow of migrants of 16.5 million during the same period.
  • In 2021, most births worldwide occurred in the two most populous regions—Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

How has life expectancy contributed to the global population growth?

  • One of the reasons for population growth globally flagged by the UNFPA has been that of increasing life expectancy.
  • Fertility rates have been dropping in various parts of the world, as have mortality rates all over the world, with better access to health care and improving standards of living. This also means that parts of the world, such as Japan, have a rapidly ageing population.
  • The 2023 report finds that life expectancy among men now stands at 71 years while among women it stands at 76 years.
  • Globally, life expectancy reached 72.8 years in 2019, an increase of almost 9 years since 1990, the UN said in its 2022 report.
  • Further reductions in mortality are projected to result in an average longevity of around 77.2 years globally in 2050.
  • The share of the global population aged 65 years or above is projected to rise from 10 per cent in 2022 to 16 per cent in 2050.
  • Once fertility rates drop in high fertility regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, the global population will start to decline.

Where does India stand in the big population picture?

  • The UN report states that India now has 1,428.6 million people and is the most populous country in the world, outstripping China’s population.
  • As much as 68% of India’s population belongs to the 15-64 years category, and 26% in the 10-24 years group, making India one of the youngest countries in the world.
  • However, the fertility rate in India has been steadily dropping. 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).
  • Experts say that India’s large population is a result of the “population momentum” from earlier decades, and that the country’s population is likely to start its decline closer to 2050.
  • The increased use of contraceptive methods, spacing of pregnancies, access to health care and the impetus to family planning, besides increasing wealth and education, has contributed to the rate of growth of population slowing.
  • Life expectancy for men in India is the same as the global life expectancy of 71 years, while it is marginally lower for women at 74 years.

So, is India’s large population a good thing or a bad thing?

  • Experts have been talking about the opportunity of India’s “demographic dividend”. Demographic dividend means that 68% of its population as youth, and working population, India could have one of the largest workforces in the world, giving it a global advantage.
  • The population in many countries, like Japan and South Korea, are on the decline. A declining fertility rate, women not having children, is accompanied by an ageing population, and one that is out of the workforce. This is the situation that India now needs to capitalise on to spur its economic growth further, by educating and skilling its youth, and providing this skilled labour to countries which will be in dire need of such a work force in the near future.

2 . National Quantum Mission

Context: The Union Cabinet approved the ₹6,003 crores National Quantum Mission (NQM) that will fund research and development of quantum computing technology and associated applications.

What is the National Quantum Mission?

  • National Quantum Mission aims to seed, nurture and scale up scientific and industrial R&D and create a vibrant & innovative ecosystem in Quantum Technology (QT). This will accelerate QT led economic growth, nurture the ecosystem in the country and make India one of the leading nations in the development of Quantum Technologies & Applications (QTA).
  • This mission will mainly work towards strengthening India’s research and development in the quantum arena alongside indigenously building quantum-based (physical qubit) computers which are far more powerful to perform the most complex problems in highly secure manner.
  • India will be the sixth country to have a dedicated quantum mission after the US, Austria, Finland, France and China.
  • The new mission targets developing intermediate scale quantum computers with 50-1000 physical qubits in 8 years in various platforms like superconducting and photonic technology.
  • Satellite based secure quantum communications between ground stations over a range of 2000 kilometres within India, long distance secure quantum communications with other countries, inter-city quantum key distribution over 2000 km as well as multi-node Quantum network with quantum memories are also some of the deliverables of the Mission.
  • The mission will help develop magnetometers with high sensitivity in atomic systems and Atomic Clocks for precision timing, communications and navigation.
  • It will also support design and synthesis of quantum materials such as superconductors, novel semiconductor structures and topological materials for fabrication of quantum devices. Single photon sources/detectors, entangled photon sources will also be developed for quantum communications, sensing and metrological applications.
  • Four Thematic Hubs (T-Hubs) will be set up in top academic and National R&D institutes on the domains –
    • Quantum Computing,
    • Quantum Communication,
    • Quantum Sensing & Metrology and
    • Quantum Materials & Devices.
  • The hubs which will focus on generation of new knowledge through basic and applied research as well as promote R&D in areas that are mandated to them.
  • NQM can take the technology development eco-system in the country to a globally competitive level.
  • The mission would greatly benefit communication, health, financial and energy sectors as well as drug design, and space applications.
  • It will provide a huge boost to National priorities like digital India, Make in India, Skill India and Stand-up India, Start-up India, Self-reliant India and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
  • The mission will be led by the Department of Science & Technology under a mission director.
  • The mission was budgeted for ₹8,000 crore in the Union Budget of 2023.

What is quantum technology?

  • Quantum technology is a field of physics and engineering those studies and applies the principles of quantum mechanics to the development of new technologies.
  • Quantum mechanics is the branch of physics that describes the behavior of matter and energy at a microscopic scale, where the classical laws of physics do not apply.
  • Quantum technology includes various types of technologies, such as quantum computing, quantum cryptography, and quantum sensing.
  • While the classical computer is transistor-based, quantum computers are going to work on atoms.
  • Quantum computers use quantum bits (qubits) instead of classical bits to perform calculations.

Advantages of Quantum Computing

  • The advantage of quantum computing is that it can solve problems much faster with more authenticity.
  • Quantum technology offers unique security when it comes to encryption, making quantum communication hack-proof.
  • Quantum communication is one of the safest ways of connecting two places with high levels of code and quantum cryptography that cannot be decrypted or broken by an external entity. If a hacker tries to crack the message in quantum communication, it changes its form in such a manner that would alert the sender and would cause the message to be altered or deleted.

Applications of Quantum Computing

  • Meanwhile, quantum sensing uses the principles of quantum mechanics to develop new types of sensors with unprecedented sensitivity and accuracy.
  • These sensors can measure physical quantities, such as temperature, magnetic fields, and gravitational waves, with higher precision than classical sensors.
  • This technology has vast utilisation in astronomy and astrophysics and in solving the riddles of the universe.

3 . YZ Ceti b

Context: YZ Ceti b is a rocky, earth-sized exoplanet (a planet that orbits a star other than our sun) rotating around a small red dwarf star, YZ Ceti, barely 12 light-years from Earth. Astronomers have detected a repeating radio signal from this exoplanet that suggests the presence of a magnetic field – one of the prerequisites for a habitable planet – around it.

YZ Ceti b

  • YZ Ceti b is a terrestrial exoplanet that orbits an M-type star. Its mass is 0.7 Earths, it takes 2 days to complete one orbit of its star and is 0.01634 AU from its star. Its discovery was announced in 2017.

Detection of a magnetic field on an earth sized exoplanet

  • Using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in New Mexico, researchers Sebastian Pineda at the University of Colorado Boulder and Jackie Villadsen at Bucknell University observed a repeating radio signal coming from YZ Ceti b.
  • Radio signals were a result of the interaction between the planet’s magnetic field and the star. This suggests the presence of a magnetic field – one of the prerequisites for a habitable planet

Why does the magnetic field matter?

  • Just as energy surges from the sun sometimes disrupt telecommunications on earth and damage orbiting satellites, intense bursts of energy from the YZ Ceti star-exoplanet exchange produce spectacular auroral lights.
  • These radio waves, strong enough to be picked up on earth, confirmed the existence of an exoplanetary magnetic field.
  • Such signals can only be produced if the exoplanet orbits very close to its parent star and has its own magnetic field to influence the stellar wind and generate the signals.

What’s the implication for YZ Ceti b?

  • This is borne out by the small orbit of YZ Ceti b: the astronomers determined that the planet takes just a couple of earth days to circle its star.
  • Data from space-science missions such as Kepler, Gaia, and the James Webb space telescopes suggest the existence of possibly more than 300 billion planets in the Milky Way Galaxy alone.
  • With scores of exoplanets in the Sun’s ‘neighbourhood’ itself, nearly half of all the stars visible in the sky could potentially harbour rocky, earth-sized planets in the habitable orbits around them.
  • To have an atmosphere and sustain water, a planet has to be at a certain distance from its star (in orbits said to be in the star’s “Goldilocks zone”), or it will get burnt.

How common are such magnetic fields?

  • With such overwhelming numbers, it always stood to reason that strong planetary magnetic fields should be common outside the solar system. Nevertheless, despite many of the larger exoplanets detected thus far being found to possess magnetic fields, planetary scientists have never been able to identify such fields on smaller, rocky exoplanets – until now.

4. Article 371  A of the Constitution

Context: The Neiphiu Rio-led Nagaland government preferred to be in contempt of the Supreme Court than face the wrath of the community-based organisations by repealing the Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001. This led to the cancellation of the State Election Commission’s March 9 notification for holding elections to Nagaland’s 39 urban local bodies (ULBs) with 33% of the seats reserved for women.  

Background of the issue

  • Reason for opposition to Urban Local Bodies (ULB) Poll in Nagaland- Nagaland is arguably the only State where ULB seats are not reserved for women as mandated by clause IV of the 74th Amendment to the Constitution of India.
  • Most of the traditional tribal and urban organisations oppose the 33% reservation of seats for women as they argue that such reservation would violate the special provisions granted by Article 371A of the Constitution to Nagaland.
  • Previous ULB Polls in Nagaland- The first and only civic body election in Nagaland was held in 2004 without any reservation of seats for women. The State government amended the 2001 Municipal Act in 2006 to include 33% reservation for women in line with the 74th Amendment. This triggered widespread opposition forcing the government to indefinitely postpone the ULB polls in 2009.
  • Efforts to hold the elections in March 2012 met with strong protests and in September 2012, the State Assembly passed a resolution to exempt Nagaland from Article 243T of the Constitution which is related to the reservation for women.
  • This resolution was revoked in November 2016 and elections to the civic bodies with 33% reservation were notified a month later. The notification led to widespread mayhem in which two people were killed in large-scale violence and arson.
  • This made the government declare the process to conduct election null and void in February 2017.

Why did the govt. decide on ULB polls this time?

  • Under pressure from the Supreme Court, the Rio government laid the ground for holding ULB polls after consultations with various stakeholders, including churches, NGOs, and tribal bodies in March 2022.
  • The State Election Commission on March 9 notified that the polls would take place on May 16. The tribal bodies and civil society organisations threatened to boycott the polls until the “borrowed” Municipal Act of 2001 factoring in women’s reservation is “reviewed and rewritten in complete consonance of the voice of the Naga people” so that it does not infringe upon Article 371A.
  • The government succumbed to public pressure and repealed the Municipal Act with immediate effect as the people “cannot be compelled” to participate in the elections.

What is the way Forward?

  • The groups against reservation for women want a “guarantee” that the 33% quota would not violate the provisions of Article 371A. Before “rushing to conduct” the ULB elections, they suggested that the duration of the reservation should be capped at two tenures and demanded that the post of chairperson should not be reserved for women.
  • The Neiphiu Rio-led government’s resolution in the Assembly, which was moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister K G Kenye, stated that the people cannot be “compelled” to participate in the elections. Hence the newly-constituted Nagaland Assembly’s move to pass a resolution to repeal the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 with immediate effect has again put a question mark over the conduct of the elections to the urban local bodies (ULBs) in the state.

What is Article 371 A?

  • Article 371A states that no Act of Parliament would apply to the religious or social practices of the Nagas, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, and ownership and transfer of land and its resources.
  • The hohos (apex tribal bodies) point out that women have traditionally not been part of decision-making bodies.

What is Article 243T?

  • Article 243T provides for the reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in every Municipality.
    • (1) Seats shall be reserved for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in every Municipality and the number of seats so reserved shall bear, as nearly as may be, the same proportion to the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in that Municipality as the population of the Scheduled Castes in the Municipal area or of the Scheduled Tribes in the Municipal area bears to the total population of that area and such seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality.
    • (2) Not less than one-third of the total number of seats reserved under clause (1) shall be reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes or, as the case may be, the Scheduled Tribes.

5 . Civil Union and Special Marriage Act

Context: A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, began hearing a batch of petitions seeking legal recognition of same sex marriage. While the Centre, through Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, contested the maintainability of the petitions, and also the judiciary’s right to confer legal recognition on the “socio-legal institution” of marriage, the CJI clarified that the hearing’s scope would be limited to developing a notion of a “civil union” that finds legal recognition under the Special Marriage Act.

What is a civil union?

  • A “civil union” refers to the legal status that allows same-sex couples specific rights and responsibilities normally conferred upon married couples.
  • Although a civil union resembles a marriage and brings with it employment, inheritance, property, and parental rights, there are some differences between the two.

How is a civil union different from marriage?

  • In the year 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) legalised same-sex marriages across the nation with its landmark ruling in “Obergefell v. Hodges”.
  • Prior to the 2015 ruling, a majority of the US states had civil union laws that allowed same-sex couples to marry, without providing them formal recognition of the same.
  • These civil unions would be accompanied by rights such as inheritance rights, employment benefits to spouses, joint parenting or joint ownership rights, and the right to abstain from testifying against one’s partner — similar to the spousal privilege given under Section 122 of the Indian Evidence Act, when it comes to disclosure of communication between two spouses.
  • A big difference between civil unions and marriages was that the former was recognised solely by issuing states and not by federal law. This created a situation where such couples could not enjoy the benefits of being in a civil union, uniformly, across all states. Since the US had a system where states had to determine their own marriage laws, this disparity of recognition existed.
  • In the wake of the legalisation of same sex marriages, several civil unions were converted into marriages.

What other countries allow civil unions?

  • The United States is just one of the countries that allows same sex unions.
  • Before 2009, the year that Sweden legalised same sex marriages, LGBTQ couples there could apply for civil unions and enjoy benefits such as the right to adopt. Similarly, from 1993, couples in Norway enjoyed the right to enter into civil unions, which gave way to a new law 15 years later, allowing such couples to marry, adopt and undergo state-sponsored artificial insemination.
  • In Austria, same-sex couples could form civil partnerships between the years 2010-2017. However, this changed with a court ruling that deemed civil unions discriminatory in January 2019, when such marriages were legalised.
  • Similarly, countries like Brazil, Uruguay, Andorra, and Chile had also recognised the right of same sex couples to enter into civil unions, even before they formally recognised their legal right to marriage.

6 . National Mission for Clean Ganga

Context: The Jal Shakti Ministry’s National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) cleared eight projects worth ₹638 crore. The projects include the rejuvenation of river Hindon, a tributary of the Yamuna, stretches of which rank as among the most polluted in the country.

About National Mission for Clean Ganga

  • The National Clean Ganga Mission (NMCG) is a flagship programme developed by the National Council for the Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of the Ganga River, also known as the National Ganga Council. It is registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
  • It came into existence on August 12th 2011 and is supported by the State Level Program Management Groups (SPMGs) in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
  • The Government of India established this body to encourage a coordinated effort by the listed states to tackle the contamination of the Ganga River by offering financial and technological assistance.

Objectives of the National Clean Ganga Mission

  • The vision for Ganga Rejuvenation is to restore the integrity of the river, by achieving “Aviral Dhara” (Continuous Flow), “Nirmal Dhara” (Unpolluted Flow) and ensuring geological and ecological integrity.
  • NMCG works towards ensuring a successful reduction of contamination and revitalization of the Ganga River by implementing a river basin strategy that encourages cross-sectoral cooperation for holistic planning and maintenance. It also ensures minimum biological flows into the Ganga River with a view to maintaining water quality and ecologically responsible growth.

Structure of the National Ganga Council

The Environmental Protection Act calls for a five-tier system at national, state and district level to take steps to eliminate, monitor and mitigate acid pollution in the Ganga River and ensure a consistent and sufficient flow of water to reinvigorate the Ganga River.

  • National Ganga Council under chairmanship of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India.
  • Empowered Task Force (ETF) on river Ganga under chairmanship of Hon’ble Union Minister of Jal Shakti (Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation).
  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)
  • State Ganga Committees
  • District Ganga Committees in every specified district abutting river Ganga and its tributaries in the states.

What are the steps taken to clean Ganga by NMCG?

  • Ganga Action Plan: It was announced by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in 1985. This can be considered the first River Action Plan to improve the quality of Ganga water through the interposing, digression and treatment of domestic wastewater. The plan was designed to prevent harmful industrial chemical waste from entering the river.
  • National River Conservation Plan: This is an extension of the Ganga Action Plan aimed at covering all the major rivers in India.
  • National River Ganga Basin Authority (NRGBA): The National River Ganga Basin Authority, under the supervision of the Prime Minister of India, was created by the Central Government in 2009 pursuant to Section 3 of the Environmental Protection Act, 1986. The Ganga was declared the ‘National River’ of India.
  • A Government clean-up initiative was launched in 2010 to prevent untreated municipal sewage or industrial runoff from entering the river.
  • Ganga Manthan – A national conference was organized in 2014 to address problems and potential approaches for river cleaning. The operation was coordinated by the National Clean Ganga Project.
  • In 2014, the Clean Ganga Fund was also set up to clean up the Ganga River, set up sewage treatment plants, protect the ecology of the river and improve public infrastructure (such as Ghat renovation, research and development and creative projects). Its budget would also be used to support the National Clean Ganga Group (NMCG).
  • In 2017, the National Green Tribunal prohibited the disposal of any waste in Ganga.

7 . Facts for Prelims

Mount Annapurna

  • Annapurna is a mountain situated in the Annapurna Mountain range of Gandaki Province, north-central Nepal.
  • It is the tenth highest mountain in the world at 8,091 metres (26,545 ft) above sea level and is well known for the difficulty and danger involved in its ascent.
  • It forms a ridge some 30 miles long between the gorges of the Kali (Kali Gandak; west) and Marsyandi (east) rivers north of the town of Pokhara.  
  • The massif contains four main summits, two of which—
    • Annapurna I (26,545 feet [8,091 metres]) and II (26,040 feet [7,937 metres])—stand at the western and eastern ends of the range, respectively;
    • Annapurna III (24,786 feet [7,555 metres]) and IV (24,688 feet [7,525 metres]) lie between them.
    • Annapurna I is the world’s 10th highest peak.
  • Maurice Herzog led a French expedition to its summit through the north face in 1950, making it the first eight-thousand-meter peak ever successfully climbed.
  • The entire massif and surrounding area are protected within the 7,629-square-kilometre (2,946 sq mi) Annapurna Conservation Area, the first and largest conservation area in Nepal.
  • The Annapurna Conservation Area is home to several world-class treks, including Annapurna Sanctuary and Annapurna Circuit.
  • For decades, Annapurna I Main held the highest fatality-to-summit rate of all principal eight-thousander summits
  • The mountain still poses grave threats to climbers through avalanche danger, unpredictable weather and the extremely steep and committing nature of its climbing routes, in particular its 3,000-metre (9,800 ft) south face, renowned as one of the most difficult climbs in the world.

Patriot Guided Missile system

  • The Patriot, which stands for Phased Array Tracking Radar for Intercept on Target, is a theater-wide surface-to-air missile defense system built by Raytheon Technologies Corp and considered one of the most advanced air defense systems in the U.S. arsenal.
  • The system was first used in combat during the 1991 Gulf War, with batteries protecting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Israel, and later used during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
  • It is a mobile system that usually includes powerful radar, a control station, a power generator, launch stations and other support vehicles.
  • The system has different capabilities depending on the type of interceptor used.
  • The PAC-2 interceptor uses a blast-fragmentation warhead, while the newer PAC-3 missile uses more advanced hit-to-kill technology.
  • The system’s radar has a range of over 150 km (93 miles), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and intercepted more than 150 ballistic missiles in combat since 2015.

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