Daily Current Affairs : 23rd May 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC)
  2. E-Cigarettes
  3. National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023
  4. Facts for Prelims

1 . Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC)

Context: In the opening session of the FIPIC-3 summit in Port Moresby, Prime Minister of India  spoke in favour of free and open Indo-Pacific region and focused on India’s commitment to assist the development goals of the member-countries.

What is FIPIC?

  •  The Forum for India–Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) was launched during PM Modi’s visit to Fiji in November 2014.
  • FIPIC includes 14 island countries – Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu – that are located in the Pacific Ocean, to the northeast of Australia

What was the idea behind FIPIC?

  • According to the group’s website, despite their relatively small size and considerable distance from India, many of these islands have large exclusive economic zones (EEZs).
  • EEZs is the distance up to which a coastal nation has jurisdiction over the ocean, including both living and non-living resources.
  •  It generally goes to 200 nautical miles or 230 miles (around 370 km) beyond a nation’s territorial sea.
  • As the website notes, India’s larger focus is on the Indian Ocean where it has sought to play a major role and protect its strategic and commercial interests.
  • The FIPIC initiative then marks a serious effort to expand India’s engagement in the Pacific region as well.
  • Based on 2021-22 data, the total annual trade between India and Pacific Island countries is valued at $570 million, in commodities such as plastics, pharmaceuticals, sugar, mineral fuel and ores. Among them, Papua New Guinea is the biggest trade partner in terms of value.

What is the FIPIC summit?

  • This was the third FIPIC summit to be held.
  • FIPIC-I, in 2014, took place at Suva, Fiji’s capital city. India announced various development assistance initiatives and other cooperation projects in areas of climate change, trade, economy, telemedicine and teleeducation, IT, grants for community development projects, etc.
  • At FIPIC-II in 2015 in Jaipur, India again announced similar initiatives. India also approached the event from a large diplomatic perspective, calling for a dedicated seat for Small Island Developing States in an expanded and reformed UN Security Council in both categories.
  • In 2019, the India-Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) Leaders’ Meeting (comprising delegations of 12 out of the 14 Pacific Islands countries) was held on September 24, 2019 in New York on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly.

What happened at the FIPIC summit 2023?

  • The third FIPIC summit was to be held in early 2020 but was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. During his concluding remarks, the prime minister announced initiatives such as:
    • Establishment of a super-specialty cardiology hospital in Fiji. The Indian government will bear the full cost of this mega greenfield project.
    • Sea ambulances will be provided to all the 14 Pacific island countries.
    • A Jaipur foot camp will be set up in Papua New guinea this year and starting from 2024, two such camps will be organised every year in the Pacific island countries.

2 . E-cigarettes

Context: With e-cigarettes easily available online and at tobacco shops despite a ban, the Union Health Ministry has issued a public notice for stricter implementation of the Act which prohibits manufacture, sale and advertisements of electronic cigarettes.

What are e-cigarettes and how do they work?

  • Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or non-combustible tobacco products are known by many names — vapes, e-hookahs, electronic cigarettes and e-pipes.
  • E-cigarettes may be manufactured to look like traditional cigarettes and are marketed as tobacco-free nicotine delivery devices.
  • Instead of burning tobacco leaves like in traditional cigarettes, an e-cigarette, which is a battery-operated device, produces aerosol by heating a solution containing nicotine among other things.
  • The device contains nicotine and flavours in the form of liquid which is primarily composed of solvents such as glycerol and/or propylene glycol.
  • The aerosol containing a suspension of fine particles and gases simulates cigarette smoke.
  • Following a puff, the aerosol is delivered to the user’s mouth and lungs and the rest is exhaled.

What are the effects?

  • Unlike smoking, the adverse health effects of e-cigarettes are not yet known. But like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes too deliver ultrafine particles and nicotine deep into the lungs, which is then absorbed by the blood.
  • A 2018 study found the use of e-cigarette daily was associated with a 79% increase in heart attack risk after other variables were taken into account.
  • According to a white paper on e-cigarettes by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), depending on the battery output voltage used, nicotine solvents can release in varying amounts potential carcinogens such as acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and acetone.
  • Flavours such as diacetyl used in e-cigarettes are linked to serious lung disease.
  • E-cigarettes also contain volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, such as nickel, tin and lead.
  • e-cigarette use among youths and young adults is a public health concern; exposure to nicotine during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain.
  •  Nicotine “harms parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. Nicotine also changes the way synapses — connections between brain cells — are formed. This is of concern as more synapses are formed in younger brains.
  • In animals, aerosol exposure was found to increase secretion of inflammatory markers, induced airway hyper-reactivity and caused lung tissue degradation in chronic exposure.

Are e-cigarettes addictive?

  • According to a National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2018 carried out by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 3.6 million kids in the U.S. are using e-cigarettes. High school students in the U.S. who used e-cigarettes at least once in 30 days increased from 11.7% in 2017 to 20.8% in 2018; the increase was 48% for middle school children.
    • Reasons- Flavours in e-cigarettes have been cited as one of the top three reasons for children to use them.
    • The misconception that “e-cigarettes are less harmful than other forms of tobacco such as cigarettes” is another main reason.
    • Youth who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to go on to smoke conventional cigarettes.

Ban on e-cigarettes by Indian Government

  • The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Act came into force in 2019
  • The ministry has directed all producers, manufacturers, importers, exporters, distributors, advertisers, transporters including couriers, social media websites, online shopping websites, shopkeepers/retailers etc. not to directly or indirectly produce or manufacture or import or export or transport or sell or distribute or store e-cigarettes, whether as a complete product or any part thereof.
  • Offense of production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale (including online sale), distribution, storage and advertisement of electronic cigarettes is cognizable and punishable as per the statutory provisions of the Act”.
  • In February, the ministry had written to all States and UTs to ensure effective compliance of the ban on e-cigarettes, expressing concern that these devices are still available online and at local vendors.
  • According to the provisions of the Act, “authorised officers” have been made responsible for the implementation of the order in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

What are the concerns?

  • e-cigarettes can seriously undermine and derail the government’s efforts to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use.
  • Despite a ban on electronic cigarettes by the government of India in 2019, they are easily available in tobacco shops and online and are sold to children below 18 years of age.
  • The ban on electronic cigarettes was introduced to protect younger generation from a new form of toxic addiction. However, its enforcement has been weak, resulting in the market being flooded with cheap and unbranded Chinese-made e-cigarettes.
  • Despite heavy penalties and imprisonment, e-cigarettes are widely available across a range of sources, including tobacco vendors, general stores, and online providers.
  • E-cigarette and like products with attractive flavouring have been proven to hook the younger generation to nicotine addiction.

3 . National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023

Context: A Constitution Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud held that the Delhi government can make laws and administer civil services in the national capital. The court limited the role of the Lieutenant Governor (LG), an arm of the Centre, over bureaucrats in the capital to three specific areas — public order, police and land. But the prsident on May 19 promulgated the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2023 to make a fresh claim of power over the services in the capital.

What does the Ordinance say?

  • The government has used the Ordinance route to indirectly return to its original position which it had taken in May 21, 2015 through a Home Ministry notification.  
  • The Ordinance required the LG to consult the Chief Minister only at his “discretion”. The notification had excluded Entry 41 (services) of the State List from the scope of powers of the Delhi government.
  • National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA) – The Ordinance forms a “permanent” National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA) with the Chief Minister as chairperson, and the Chief Secretary and Principal Home Secretary as Member and Member Secretary, respectively.
  • The NCCSA exercises authority over civil service officers working in all Delhi government departments except those in public order, police and land.
  • It would decide transfers, postings, prosecution sanctions, disciplinary proceedings, vigilance issues, etc, of civil service officers deputed to Delhi government departments by majority of votes of the members present and voting. The Lieutenant Governor’s decision, in case of a difference of opinion, would be final.
  • Controversy over the National Capital Civil Service Authority (NCCSA)- This throws open a scenario in which bureaucrats in the NCCSA could possibly veto the Chief Minister.
  • The Ordinance explains that the Chief Secretary would represent “the will of the officers of GNCTD” (Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi).
  • The Supreme Court had envisaged a “neutral civil service” carrying out the day-to-day decisions of the Council of Ministers. The NCCSA attempts to bring civil service officers out of the administrative control of the elected Ministers, who embody the will of the people, and transform them into a power lobby.
  • The NCCSA negates the intrinsic link between government accountability and the principle of collective responsibility highlighted in the judgment.
  • The court had held that the civil services were accountable to the Ministers of the elected government, under whom they function. The Ministers were in turn accountable to the legislature, and the legislature ultimately to the people of Delhi. The chain of command was forged by the Supreme Court to ensure democratic accountability.
  • The Ordinance also does not heed the President’s own Transaction of Business Rules of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, 1993.

Does the Ordinance go against the Supreme Court judgment?

  • The Ordinance is based on the argument that the Supreme Court has itself acknowledged the superior authority of Parliament to make laws for the national capital.
  • A review petition filed by the Centre in the Supreme Court claimed that Delhi is not a “full-fledged State” but only a Union Territory which is an extension of the Union.
  • The Parliament is Delhi’s true legislature, the Centre has argued. However, the May 11 judgment addresses this contention by acknowledging that though Delhi is not a full-fledged State, its Legislative Assembly is constitutionally entrusted with the power to legislate upon the subjects in the State List and Concurrent List.
  • It had also referred to how the majority in a 2018 Constitution Bench judgment had held that while NCTD could not be accorded the status of a State, the concept of federalism would still be applicable to NCTD.

What does the Ordinance and the judgment say about the LG’s powers?

  • The Ordinance has given the power to LG to take a final call on any decision taken by the NCCSA regarding services. This is despite the fact that the LG’s powers were curtailed way back in 2018 by another Constitution Bench judgment.
  • On May 11, the court had agreed with its conclusions in 2018 that the LG was bound by the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers under Article 239AA(4) while exercising executive powers in relation to matters falling within the legislative domain of the legislative assembly of NCTD.
  • The court had held that even the “limited discretionary power” afforded to the LG “ought to be exercised in a careful manner in rare circumstances such as on matters of national interest and finance. The Lieutenant Governor could not refer every matter to the President”.

What lies ahead?

  • An Ordinance is not beyond judicial review of the apex court. If the 2023 Ordinance is challenged separately, the Union would have to prove the “extraordinary or emergent situation” which necessitated it to promulgate an Ordinance merely days after a Constitution Bench settled the law.
  • A Constitution Bench in DC Wadhwa versus State of Bihar had held that the power of the Executive to promulgate an Ordinance should not be “perverted to serve political ends”.

4 . Facts for Prelims

Comb Jellies

  • Ctenophora comprise a phylum of marine invertebrates, commonly known as comb jellies, that inhabit sea waters worldwide.
  • The comb jelly is a beautiful, oval-shaped animal with eight rows of tiny comblike plates that it beats to move itself through the water.
  • As it swims, the comb rows break up (diffract) light to produce a shimmering rainbow effect.
  • Voracious predators of other jellies, some comb jellies can expand their stomachs to hold prey nearly half their own size.

SRS Survey

  • The Sample Registration System (SRS) is a large-scale demographic survey for providing reliable annual estimates of Infant mortality rate, birth rate, death rate and other fertility & mortality indicators at the national and sub-national levels.
  • It is being conducted in a random sample of villages and urban blocks and is based on the idea that with an adequate machinery for recording of births and deaths as they occur and with proper supervision at all levels, it is possible to obtain reliable estimates of vital rates at the State and National level.
  • The system combines the advantages of both continuous (longitudinal) enumeration and survey procedures. All vital events occurring to usual residents of the sample area are recorded.  
  • Following features of SRS ensure the completeness of vital events reporting:
    1. A representative sample of the population is covered and NOT the WHOLE population
    2. It is based on Dual – record system:
    a. First a baseline survey of sampled units is done
    b. This is followed by continuous enumeration of vital events of the areas by an enumerator (who is a volunteer from the community)
    c. Independent retrospective 6-monthly surveys are done for recording births and deaths which occurred in the preceding 6 months and the number is matched with the one reported by the enumerator
    Not only the numbers of vital events should match, it is also verified if the births and deaths reported by the enumerator are the same ones which the survey has found out. This is called as ‘Matching of events’ by the observer

INS Sindhuratna

  • INS Sindhuratna, a Sindhughosh class submarine, returned to Mumbai after undergoing major refit at Naval dockyard in Russia.
  • It is a diesel-electric submarine of the Indian Navy.
  • Of the 10 Kilo-class submarines originally procured from Russia, Sindhurakshak was lost in an accident, Sindhuvir was transferred to Myanmar and Sindhudhvaj was decommissioned in July 2022 after 35 years. Another Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhukirti is currently at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd., Visakhapatnam for normal refit of 22 months.
  • The Kilo-class submarines have a displacement of 2,300 tonnes, a maximum diving depth of 300 metres and a top speed of 18 knots. They are able to operate solo for 45 days with a crew of over 50.

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