Daily Current Affairs : 3rd February 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Lab Grown Diamond
  2. Section 33(7) of the Representation of People Act
  3. CITES
  4. Facts for Prelims – Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET).

1 . Lab Grown Diamond

Context: In the Union Budget 2023-2024 announced to reduce the custom duty on the seeds used in the manufacture of lab-grown diamonds. In a bid to popularise their production in India, government reduce the customs duty from 5% to nil.

What is lab-grown diamonds?

  • Lab-grown diamonds are diamonds that are produced using specific technology which mimics the geological processes that grow natural diamonds. They are not the same as “diamond simulants” – LGDs are chemically, physically, and optically diamond and thus are difficult to identify as “lab-grown.”
  • Materials such as Moissanite, Cubic Zirconia (CZ), White Sapphire, YAG, etc. are “diamond simulants” that simply attempt to “look” like a diamond, they lack the sparkle and durability of a diamond and are thus easily identifiable.
  • However, differentiating between an LGD and an Earth Mined Diamond is hard, with advanced equipment required for the purpose.

How are LGDs produced?

  • There are multiple ways in which LGDs can be produced. The most common and cheapest method is the “High pressure, high temperature” (HPHT) method.
  • This method requires extremely heavy presses that can produce up to 730,000 psi of pressure under extremely high temperatures (at least 1500 celsius).
  • Usually graphite is used as the “diamond seed” and when subjected to these extreme conditions, the relatively inexpensive form of carbon turns into one of the most expensive carbon forms.
  • Other processes include “Chemical Vapor Deposition” (CVD) and explosive formation that creates what are known as “detonation nanodiamonds”.
  • In the CVD process, the seed is heated to around 800 degrees Celsius inside a sealed chamber filled with a carbon-rich gas. The gas sticks to the seed and gradually builds into a diamond.
  • The world’s first-ever lab-grown diamond was created in 1954 by scientists working at a General Electric research laboratory in New York.

What are LGDs used for?

  • LGDs have basic properties like natural diamonds, including their optical dispersion, which provides them the signature diamond sheen. However, since they are created in controlled environments, many of their properties can be enhanced for various purposes
  • LGDs are most often used for industrial purposes, in machines and tools. Their hardness and extra strength make them ideal for use as cutters. Furthermore, pure synthetic diamonds have high thermal conductivity, but negligible electrical conductivity.
  • This combination is invaluable for electronics where such diamonds can be used as a heat spreader for high-power laser diodes, laser arrays and high-power transistors.
  • Earth’s reserves of natural diamonds are depleted, LGDs are slowly replacing the prized gemstone in the jewellery industry.
  • Like natural diamonds, LGDs undergo similar processes of polishing and cutting that are required to provide diamonds their characteristic lustre.

 Future of lab grown diamonds

  •  India contributes around 15 per cent in global production of lab-grown diamonds for which it is presently self-sufficient, as per the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. 
  • India’s exports of polished lab-grown diamonds were $274 million, $473 million, $637 million and $1.29 billion during 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2020-21, respectively. Annual growth during the same periods were 72 per cent, 35 per cent, and 103 per cent, respectively.

2 . Section 33(7) of the RPA Act

Context: The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to set aside a provision in the election law which allows candidates to contest polls from two constituencies simultaneously.

About the petition

  • The petition had sought the court to declare Section 33(7) of the Representation of People Act invalid and ultra vires which allows a person to contest a general election or a group of by-elections or biennial elections from two constituencies.

What is the concern regarding Section 33(7) of the Representation of People Act?

  • The Election Commission of India pointed out that there have been cases where a person contests an election from two constituencies and wins from both.
  • In such a situation that person vacates the seat in one of the two constituencies.
  • The consequence is that a by-election would be required from one constituency involving avoidable expenditure on the conduct of that bye-election.

What are the suggestions made by the election commission of India?

  • The election commission recommended to amend the law which provide a person cannot contest from more than one constituency at a time.
  • The poll body had even suggested that a candidate should deposit an amount of ₹5 lakh for contesting in two constituencies in an Assembly election or ₹10 lakh in a general election.
  • The amount would be used to cover the expenses for a by-election in the eventuality that he or she was victorious in both constituencies and had to relinquish one.

3 . CITES & Red Sanders

Context: The CITES trade database has recorded 28 incidents of Red Sanders confiscation, seizure, and specimen from the wild being exported from India, a factsheet prepared by TRAFFIC, a global wildlife trade monitoring organisation has revealed.

What is CITES?

  • CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments, whose aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants, does not threaten the survival of the species.
  • It was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

What is the main role of the CITES?

  • CITES regulates international trade in over 36,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment.
  • Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties – in other words they have to implement the Convention – it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.

Conservation impacts

  • CITES remains one of the cornerstones of international conservation. There are 184 member Parties and trade is regulated in more than 38,000 species.
  • Representatives of CITES nations meet every two to three years at a Conference of the Parties (or COP) to review progress and adjust the lists of protected species, which are grouped into three categories with different levels of protection:
    • Appendix I: Includes the world’s most endangered plants and animals, such as tigers and gorillas. International commercial trade in these species, or even parts of them, is completely banned, except in rare cases such as scientific research.
    • Appendix II: Contains species like corals that are not yet threatened with extinction, but which could become threatened if unlimited trade were allowed. Also included are “look-alike” species that closely resemble those already on the list for conservation reasons. Plants and animals in this category can be traded internationally, but there are strict rules.
    • Appendix III: Species whose trade is only regulated within a specific country can be placed on Appendix III if that country requires cooperation from other nations to help prevent exploitation.
    • CITES also brings together law enforcement officers from wildlife authorities, national parks, customs, and police agencies to collaborate on efforts to combat wildlife crime targeted at animals such as elephants and rhinos.

What is Red Sanders?

  • Red Sanders Pterocarpus santalinus, or red sandalwood, is an endemic tree species with distribution restricted to the Eastern Ghats of India.
  • The species found in Andhra Pradesh and growing up to a height of 10 to 15 metres, is reported to be one of India’s most exploited trees species and is under severe pressure from illegal logging and harvesting.
  • It is used to make furniture and handicrafts,
  • The red dye obtained from the wood is used as a colouring agent in textiles and medicines.
  • Listed under Schedule IV of The Wildlife Protection Act and Endangered as per IUCN Red List, Red Sanders is a very slow-growing tree species that attains maturity in natural forests after 25-40 years.

What are the threats to red sanders?

  • Red Sanders is under severe pressure from illegal logging and harvesting. Its heartwood is in demand in both domestic and international markets
  • Under the foreign trade policy of India, the import of Red Sanders is prohibited, while export is restricted.
  • Despite the regulation and legal protection, illegal logging and timber extraction remains major conservation concern for the species.

What are the conservation efforts to save Red sanders?

  • Andhra Pradesh Forest Act, was amended via A.P. Act No.15 of 2016, to give special status of protection to Red Sanders.
  • Red Sanders offences were made cognisable and non-bailable, and the punishments related to it were enhanced.
  • Under the foreign trade policy of India, the import of Red Sanders is prohibited, while export is restricted.
  • Declaring the Red Sanders harbouring forests within the species’ geographical range as ‘High Conservation Areas’, to provide an adequate legal framework for protecting the species and its habitat.
  • “Enforcement agencies such as the Forest Departments, Customs, Railways, Police, DRI (Directorate of Revenue Intelligence), and Coast Guards must coordinate efforts to curb the Red Sanders trafficking by sharing information on hotspots and transit routes and real-time intelligence related to the Red Sanders smuggling”

4 . Facts for Prelims

Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET)

  • It is a strategic partnership program between India and US.
  • iCET is being launched at the direction of US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi after their Tokyo meeting in May 2022 .
  • It was announced to elevate and expand the strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions of the two countries.
  • It includes a set of programs whose aim is to increase the depth and scope of bilateral cooperation in cutting edge technology, including in the defence sector.
  • The iCET seeks to build supply chains which increase co-production and co-development between the countries and increase linkages between the countries’ start-up ecosystems.
  • The programs includes
    • a Research Agency Partnership between the U.S. National Science Foundation and Indian science agencies;
    •  A mechanism to cooperate on quantum computing that will also involve academia and industry;
    •  Developing a new defence industrial cooperation roadmap;
    • Supporting the development of semiconductors in India, including by setting up a taskforce to identify opportunities; and
    • Increasing space cooperation including human spaceflight.

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