Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- India -Maldives relationship
- Freedom house report
- Glacial Lake outburst flood
- Nobel Prize Chemistry
- JMM bribery case
- Facts for prelims
1) India -Maldives relationship :
Context: India looks forward to engaging the new Maldives government on “all issues”, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Thursday, responding to the Maldivian President-elect Mohamed Muizzu’s statement that Indian military personnel would be asked to leave the islands.
- India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links steeped in antiquity.
- The relations have been close, cordial and multi-dimensional. India was among the first to recognize Maldives after its independence in 1965 and to establish diplomatic relations with the country.
Importance of Maldives
- Strategic significance : Maldives’ proximity to the west coast of India (barely 70 nautical miles away from Minicoy and 300 nautical miles away from India’s West coast), and its situation at the hub of commercial sea-lanes running through Indian Ocean (particularly the 8° N and 1 1⁄2° N channels) imbues it with significant strategic importance to India. The importance of India’s strategic role in Maldives is well-recognized, with India being seen as a net security provider.
- Maritime Security: The Indian Ocean is a vital maritime route for trade and energy transportation, and India’s interests in maintaining a secure and stable maritime environment are significant. The Maldives’ location plays a role in India’s efforts to ensure the safety of sea lanes and counter piracy in the region.
- Economic Ties: India and the Maldives have strong economic ties, with India being one of the Maldives’ largest trading partners and foreign investors. The Maldives relies on India for various goods and services, including food, fuel, and infrastructure development.
- Tourism: Tourism is the backbone of the Maldivian economy, and India is a significant source of tourists for the country. Indian tourists contribute to the Maldives’ economy and help foster people-to-people ties.
- Strategic Cooperation: India has historically provided assistance to the Maldives in various forms, including defense cooperation, infrastructure development, and disaster relief. This cooperation enhances India’s influence and presence in the region.
- Counterterrorism and Security: Both India and the Maldives have shared concerns about the threat of terrorism and extremism. Collaboration in counterterrorism and security matters is vital for both countries to maintain stability and security in the Indian Ocean region.
Areas of cooperation
- Boundary issues : India’s relationship with the Maldives is free of any politically contentious issues. The one-time claim of Maldives to Minicoy Island was resolved by the Maritime Boundary Treaty of 1976 between the two countries, whereby Maldives has recognized Minicoy as an integral part of India.
- Assistance provided : India’s prompt assistance during the 1988 coup attempt, led to development of trust and long-term and friendly bilateral relations with the Maldives. The immediate withdrawal of troops when they were no longer required assuaged fears of any Indian dominance or territorial aspirations. India was the first to assist Maldives during the 2004 Tsunami as well as the water crisis in Malé in Dec 2014. These three incidents (in 1988, 2004 and 2014) had established the advantages of India’s proximity and capacity to come to Maldives’ rescue in distress vis-à-vis any other country and are widely acknowledged by the government and people of Maldives. India’s swift dispatch of 30,000 doses of measles vaccine in Jan 2020 to prevent an outbreak in the Maldives, and India’s rapid and comprehensive assistance to the Maldives since the COVID- 19 pandemic began has further reinforced India’s credentials of being the “first responder”.
- High level exchanges in past few years: Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the inauguration ceremony of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on 17 Nov 2018 as the only Head of State /Head of Government. He also held bilateral discussions with President Solih just after his swearing-in ceremony, in which he conveyed India’s desire to work closely for the realization of Maldives’ developmental priorities, esp in areas of infrastructure, health care, connectivity and human resource development.
- Security & Defence Cooperation: Since 1988, defence and security has been a major area of cooperation between India and Maldives. India has adopted a very flexible and accommodating approach in meeting Maldivian requirements of defence training and equipment. A comprehensive Action Plan for Defence was also signed in April 2016 to consolidate defence partnership.
- Capacity Building/Training. India provides the largest number of training opportunities for Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), meeting around 70% of their defence training requirements. India has trained over 1500 MNDF trainees over the past 10 years. MNDF has also been participating in various mil-to-mil activities such as joint EEZ patrols, anti-narcotic ops, SAR, sea-rider programme, HADR exercises, adventure camps, sailing regatta, etc. Indian Navy has also provided MNDF with air assets for air survellance, MEDEVAC, SAR, Helo-borne vertical insertion capability.
- Development Cooperation: Several development projects undertaken by India in the region includes the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Maldives Institute of Technical Education (now called the Maldives Polytechnic), India-Maldives Faculty of Hospitality & Tourism Studies, Technology Adoption Programme in Education Sector in Maldives, National College for Police and Law Enforcement (NCPLE), Bilateral projects under Cash Grant of INR 50 crore.
- New regime in Maldives: The run-off election saw Mr. Muizzu, the former Mayor of Male, defeat incumbent Maldives President Mr. Solih by 19,000 votes, or an 8% margin. The results have been widely seen as an upset for India, that had close ties with the Solih administration.
- Chinese Influence: The Maldives has increasingly engaged with China on economic and infrastructure projects. India has expressed concerns about growing Chinese influence in the region, viewing it as a potential challenge to its own influence in the Indian Ocean.
- India Out Campaign: Speaking at a public rally after the elections, Mr. Muizzu, who stood as the candidate for the PNC-PPM coalition that had campaigned on an “India Out” plank, had said that the “sovereignty” of the Maldives was most important.
- Maritime Security: Given their geographical proximity, India and the Maldives share concerns about maritime security in the Indian Ocean. Issues such as piracy and the need to maintain maritime domain awareness can pose challenges.
2 . Freedom house report
Context: The Freedom House report says that India resorting to AI-enabled digital repression ; it finds that the environment for human rights online has deteriorated in 29 countries.
About Freedom House
- It was founded in 1941 to rally policymakers and a broadly isolationist American public around the fight against Nazi Germany, and to raise awareness of the fascist threat to American security and values.
- In the decades since, Freedom House has established itself through its advocacy, programs, and research as the leading American organization devoted to the support and defense of democracy around the world.
Findings of the Report
- Global Internet freedom has declined for the 13th consecutive year. The environment for human rights online has deteriorated in 29 countries, with only 20 countries registering net gains.
- Titled “Freedom on the Net 2023: The Repressive Power of Artificial Intelligence”, it has raised a red flag on the increasing use of artificial intelligence by governments for censorship and spread of disinformation.
- The sharpest rise in digital repression was witnessed in Iran, where authorities shut down Internet service, blocked WhatsApp and Instagram, and increased surveillance in a bid to quell anti-government protests. China, for the ninth straight year, was ranked as the world’s worst environment for Internet freedom, with Myanmar the world’s second most repressive for online freedom.
- It further detailed how elections were a trigger for digital repression.
- It evaluated countries on five censorship methods — Internet connectivity restrictions, blocks on social media platforms, blocks on websites, blocks on VPNs, and forced removal of content — and India engaged in all of them except one (VPN blocking).
- India also figured among the list of countries that blocked websites hosting political, social, or religious content, deliberately disrupted ICT networks, used pro-government commentators to manipulate online discussions, and conducted technical attacks against government critics or human rights organisations.
- On a range of 1 to 100, where ‘100’ represented highest digital freedom, India scored 50, while Iceland, with 94, has the best Internet freedom.
3 . Glacial Lake outburst flood
Context: At least seven people have died and scores more were injured or missing after flash floods inundated Sikkim on October 4. The floods are believed to have been triggered after a lake, forming from the gradual melting of a Himalayan glacier, suddenly overflowed and inundated the Teesta river basin.
What is GLOF?
- A GLOF refers to the flooding that occurs when the water dammed by a glacier or a moraine is released suddenly.
- Glacial lakes, like the South Lhonak Lake in Sikkim, are large bodies of water that sit in front of, on top of, or beneath a melting glacier. As they grow larger, they become more dangerous because glacial lakes are mostly dammed by unstable ice or sediment composed of loose rock and debris. In case the boundary around them breaks, huge amounts of water rush down the side of the mountains, which could cause flooding in the downstream areas. This is called glacial lake outburst floods or GLOF.
- GLOF can be triggered by several reasons, including earthquakes, extremely heavy rains and ice avalanches.
- These lakes are also often found in steep, mountainous regions, which means landslides or ice avalanches can sometimes fall directly into the lakes and displace the water, causing it to over-top the natural dam and flood downstream.
- In 2013, one such event took place in Uttarakhand’s Kedarnath when the region witnessed flash floods along with a GLOF caused by the Chorabari Tal glacial lake, killing thousands of people.
How did South Lhonak Lake become susceptible to GLOF?
- With the rising global temperatures, glaciers in Sikkim Himalayan have been melting rapidly, giving rise to many glacier lakes and expanding the already existing ones in the region. There are currently more than 300 glacial lakes in Sikkim Himalayan, according to the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority.
- Out of these, 10 have been identified as vulnerable to outburst floods. One of them is the South Lhonak Lake.
Guidelines for Risk reduction by NDMA
- The NDMA guidelines say that risk reduction has to begin with identifying and mapping such lakes, taking structural measures to prevent their sudden breach, and establishing mechanism to save lives and property in times of a breach.
- Potentially dangerous lakes can be identified based on field observations, records of past events, geomorphologic and geotechnical characteristics of the lake/dam and surroundings, and other physical conditions.
- NDMA has recommended use of Synthetic-Aperture Radar imagery to automatically detect changes in water bodies, including new lake formations, during the monsoon months. It has said methods and protocols could also be developed to allow remote monitoring of lake bodies from space.
- To manage lakes structurally, the NDMA recommends reducing the volume of water with methods such as controlled breaching, pumping or siphoning out water, and making a tunnel through the moraine barrier or under an ice dam.
How well is India prepared?
- While some work on identification of such lakes has been done by CWC, other aspects are still a work in progress: a robust early warning system, and a broad framework for infrastructure development, construction and excavation in vulnerable zones.
- In contrast to other countries, there are no uniform codes for excavation, construction and grading codes in India. Restricting constructions and development in GLOF/LLOF prone areas is a very efficient means to reduce risks at no cost.
- The guidelines say construction of any habitation should be prohibited in the high hazard zone. “Existing buildings are to be relocated to a safer nearby region and all the resources for the relocation have to be managed by Central/State governments. New infrastructures in the medium hazard zone have to be accompanied by specific protection measures.
- The guidelines emphasise the importance of land use planning: There are no widely accepted procedures or regulation in India for land use planning in the GLOF/LLOF prone areas. Such regulations need to be developed and there should be monitoring systems prior to, during, and after construction of infrastructure and settlements in the downstream area.
Are there early warning systems in place?
- The number of implemented and operational GLOF EWS is still very small, even at the global scale. In the Himalayan region, there are three reported instances (two in Nepal and one in China) of implementation of sensor- and monitoring-based technical systems for GLOF early warning.
- India has a remarkable history of successful warnings in relation to Landslide Lake Outburst Floods (LLOFs), dating back to the 19th century. In 1894, a landslide in Gohna, Uttarakhand dammed the main river. On July 5 that year, the engineer in charge estimated the lake would overflow the dam in mid-August, which eventually happened.
- In Srinagar, the precise prediction and the early warning to the population safeguarded and minimised the impact on them. It was made possible by the installation of a telephone line between the lake and the downstream towns of Chamoli, Srinagar etc. –
Suggestions to reduce the Impact
- NDMA has presssed the need for specialised forces such as NDRF, ITBP and the Army and emphasised the need for trained local manpower.
- Trained and equipped teams consisting of local people must be set up in GLOF and LLOF prone areas. These local teams will also assist in planning and setting up emergency shelters, distributing relief packages, identifying missing people, and addressing the needs for food, healthcare, water supply etc.
- A comprehensive alarm system consisting of acoustic alarms by sirens, and modern communication technology using cell and smart phones.
- Provision of heavy earthmoving and search and rescue equipment, as well as motor launches, country boats, inflatable rubber boats, life jackets etc. Acknowledging that a disaster spot in the Himalayas can at times be inaccessible to earthmovers, NDMA has recommended “innovative methods using locally available natural resources”.
- For emergency medical response, NDMA has called for Quick Reaction Medical Teams, mobile field hospitals, Accident Relief Medical Vans, and heli-ambulances in areas inaccessible by roads. The guidelines also call for psychological counselling of victims, apart from dissemination of accurate information through press conferences and mass media.
4 . Nobel Prize Chemistry
Context: The 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Moungi G. Bawendi, Louis E. Brus and Alexei I. Ekimov on Wednesday for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots. These nanoparticles have wide-ranging applications across fields like electronics, advanced surgery, and quantum computing.
What are quantum dots?
- Quantum dots are particles that are a few nanometres wide. They exhibit unique optical properties due to their small physical size. Their structure and atomic composition are the same as bulk materials, but the properties of the latter don’t depend on their size. In fact ,the properties of quantum dots can be changed by changing their size.
- At the scale of nanometres, materials and particles are capable of new, size-dependent properties because quantum physical forces start to dominate. At the macroscopic scale, on the other hand, like in our day to day lives, gravity and the rules of classical physics dominate.
- By the 1970s, physicists knew that the optical properties of glass could be changed by adding a small amount of another element, like gold, silver, cadmium, sulphur, or selenium. They also knew how or why some of these changes could occur, but quantum dots as such hadn’t been synthesised yet.
The Nobel-winning research
- In the early 1980s, Dr. Ekimov succeeded in creating size-dependent quantum effects in coloured glass. From 1979, he studied the properties of glasses that were tinted with copper chloride, heated to a high temperature, and then cooled. He found that different ways of preparing this glass led to it absorbing light differently. This happened because the copper chloride formed tiny crystals, and that crystals of different sizes—depending on the preparation process—interacted with light differently.
- In 1983, Dr. Brus and his colleagues went a step ahead and prepared similar crystals in a liquid solution, rather than in a glass. This allowed the researchers to better manipulate and study the crystals. These crystals also interacted with light differently depending on small variations in their size.
- Finally, in 1993, Dr. Bawendi and his coworkers developed a technique to make these peculiar crystals—i.e. the quantum dots—of well-defined sizes and with high optical quality. This process began by injecting some substance (of which the dot would be made) into a hot solvent and then heating the solution. Nanocrystals automatically began to take shape, and larger particles formed when the solution was heated for longer. The solvent also ensured that the crystals had a smooth outer surface.
- This method was quite easy, which meant many scientists could use it to make quantum dots that they required and study them.
- One of the simplest applications of quantum dots is to light computer monitors and television screens. Blue LEDs behind the screen excite these dots, causing them to emit light of different colours. Combining these colours gives rise to even more colours as well as brightness.
- Nanoscale-sized quantum dots are also used to map biological tissues by biochemists.
- Quantum dots are also used in photovoltaic cells to improve the absorption and efficiency in converting solar light into electricity.
- Certain cancer treatments use quantum dots for targeted drug delivery and other therapeutic measures. This has wider applications in the field of nanomedicine too.
- They can be used as security markers on currency and documents as an anti-counterfeit measure. Broadly, they can be used as fluorescent markers to tag and track objects.
5 . JMM bribery case
Context: Twenty-five years after a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court protected MPs and MLAs who take kickbacks to vote or make speeches in a particular manner in the House from criminal prosecution, the Centre told a larger seven-judge Bench on Wednesday that the majority verdict in the infamous JMM bribery case was wrong and a lawmaker commits a crime the moment he accepts the pay-off, whether or not he makes good his promise in the House.
About the Case Verdict:
- The PV Narasimha Rao case refers to the 1993 JMM bribery case concerning Shibu Soren, who also happens to be the father-in-law of Sita Soren, the petitioner in the present case.
- In Shibu’s case, he, along with some of his party MPs, was accused of taking bribes to vote against the no-confidence motion against the then PV Narasimha Rao government.
- Out of the five judges on the Bench in this case, two opined that protection under Article 105(2) or 194(2) and the immunity granted could not extend to cases concerning bribery for making a speech or vote in a particular manner in the House.
- However, the majority view was that while the court was “acutely conscious of the seriousness of the offence”, the Bench’s “sense of indignation” should not lead to a narrow construction of the constitutional provisions, as this may result in hampering the guarantee of “parliamentary participation and debate”.
- Thus, the top court in 1998 quashed the case against the JMM MPs, citing immunity under Article 105(2). Essentially, this five-judge bench ruling saved Soren from criminal prosecution.
Article 105(2) and 194 (2):
- Article 105 of the Constitution deals with the “powers, privileges, etc. of the Houses of Parliament and of the members and committees thereof”.
- Article 105(2) states, “No member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of any thing said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any committee thereof, and no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any report, paper, votes or proceedings.” Thus, this provision exempts MPs from any legal action for any statement made or act done in the course of their duties. For example, a defamation suit cannot be filed for a statement made in the House.
- This immunity extends to certain non-members, like the Attorney General of India or a Minister who may not be a member but speaks in the House. In cases where a member oversteps or exceeds the contours of admissible free speech, the Speaker of the House will deal with it, as opposed to the court.
- Article 194(2) extends this immunity to MLAs and states: No member of the Legislature of a State shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in the Legislature or any committee thereof, and no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of a House of such a Legislature of any report, paper, votes, or proceedings.
6 . Facts for Prelims:
Capetown convention Protocol
- At a Diplomatic Conference held in Cape Town in November, 2001 under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), two international law instruments were adopted, namely,
- The Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment (the Cape Town Convention) and
- The Protocol to the Convention on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment (the Cape Town Protocol).
- The Convention is general in nature and is meant to be applied to three sectors, viz. Aviation, Railways and Space Equipment.
- A separate Protocol has been adopted for each sector, and the Convention together with the sector specific Protocol constitutes the legal regime for each sector.
- The Aircraft protocol was adopted at Cape Town itself in 2001 along with the base Convention, while the Protocols for the Railways and Space sectors were adopted subsequently.
- Aircraft Protocol– It is a treaty designed to facilitate financing and leasing of aviation equipment
Nobel Prize for literature
- The Nobel Prize for Literature 2023 has been awarded to Norwegian author Jon Olav Fosse, for his “innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable”
- notable works by Fosse include I Am the Wind, Melancholy, Boathouse, and The Dead Dogs.
- His themes explore the absurdity, the futility and yet the power of the human condition; everyday confusions and irresolutions; and the difficulty to form actual connections, despite — and sometimes because of — conversation.
- Bekal Fort is a medieval fort built by Shivappa Nayaka of Keladi in 1650 AD, at Bekal.
- It is the largest fort in Kerala, spreading over 40 acres.
- An important feature is the water-tank, magazine and the flight of steps leading to an observation tower built by Tipu Sultan.