Current Affairs 26th February

Govt. to monitor OTT content #GS2 #Governance

For the first time, the government, under the ambit of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, has brought in detailed guidelines for digital content on both digital media and Over The Top (OTT) platforms, while giving itself overriding powers.

Emergency powers

The new rules, lay down a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism. However, over and above this framework, the government has equipped itself with “emergency” powers to block public access of any information. 

The rules state, “in case of emergency nature” the Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, may “if he is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient and justifiable” give orders to block access. Such orders can be released “without giving an opportunity of hearing” to the publishing platform.

The first level of the grievance redressal system will be at the level of each OTT provider. Each complaint will have to be addressed within 15 days. If the complaint is not satisfactorily addressed, then the complainant can scale it up to a self-regulatory body collectively established by the OTTs. 

This body will be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court, or an independent eminent person from the field of media, broadcasting, entertainment, child rights, human rights or other relevant fields.

Benefit of the NewsIndia own OTT policy

India, Pakistan agree to adhere to 2003 ceasefire #GS2 #IR

In a first joint statement issued by the two sides in years, India and Pakistan said they have agreed to a “strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control (LoC) and all other sectors” with effect from the midnight of February 24-25.

In the interest of achieving mutually beneficial and sustainable peace along the borders, the two DGMOs agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have [the] propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence,” the statement issued in Delhi and Islamabad said, adding that they would use existing mechanisms of hotlines and flag meetings to resolve any “misunderstandings”.

As per the existing mechanism, there is a discussion by officials from the Military Operations directorate every Tuesday but the DGMOs speak only when one side requests for a conversation.

However, Army sources reiterated that there would be “no let-up” in counter-terror operations as a result of the agreement, adding that the agreement with Pakistan was “an attempt to bring violence levels down”, but the Army retained the “right to respond” in case there is a terror attack in the future.

“India desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan. We have always maintained that we are committed to addressing issues, if any, in a peaceful bilateral manner,” said Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, when asked about the timing of the agreement that follows days after India and China announced a disengagement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Pakistan’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs Moeed Yusuf called the agreement a “win” for Pakistan. He said the agreement followed “efforts behind the scenes”. In a tweet, he denied that the talks were the result of “back-channel diplomacy” between him and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and had resulted from the “direct channel” between the DGMOs. 

Benefit of the NewsIndia- Pakistan Relations

45+ will need medical certificate to get vaccine #GS3 #SNT

The Union Health Ministry will soon issue the format of the medical certificate required by beneficiaries in the 45+ category with co-morbidities, who have become eligible for COVID-19 vaccination from March 1 along with those above 65 years of age.

The government will also require beneficiaries to register on the CoWIN app — along with Aadhaar card details, photo ID and signed medical certificate (if needed) to get the details of where and when to get the vaccine. 

We are getting queries about older persons not being able to use the app and their registration. This is also being looked into. The Ministry is also yet to release the list of co-morbidities or the cost of the vaccination in the private medical care sector.

Same-sex marriages will cause havoc: govt. #GS2 #Governance

The Centre opposed any changes to the existing laws on marriage to recognise same-sex marriages, saying such interference would cause “a complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country”.

“Living together as partners and having sexual relationship by same-sex individuals is not comparable with the Indian family unit concept of a husband, a wife and children which necessarily presuppose a biological man as a ‘husband’, a biological woman as a ‘wife’ and the children born out of the union between the two.

It said the 2018 landmark judgment of the Supreme Court decriminalising consensual homosexual sex in India was “neither intended to, nor did it in fact, legitimize the human conduct in question”.

In an affidavit filed in response to petitions seeking to recognise same-sex marriage, the Central government said, “despite the decriminalisation of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the petitioners cannot claim a fundamental right for same-sex marriage being recognised under the laws of the country”. 

The Centre submitted that “registration of marriage of same-sex persons also results in violation of existing personal as well as codified law provisions — such as ‘degrees of prohibited relationship’; ‘conditions of marriage’; ‘ceremonial and ritual requirements’ under the personal laws governing the individuals”.

“Any other interpretation except treating ‘husband’ as a biological man and ‘wife’ as a biological woman will make all statutory provisions unworkable,” the government cautioned.

Benefit of the NewsSame sex marriage a cause of concerm

Devise plan to curb pollution of river stretches’ #GS3 #Environment

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Ministry of Jal Shakti to devise an appropriate mechanism for effective monitoring of steps to curb pollution and rejuvenation of all polluted river stretches across the country.

The said mechanism may be called ‘National River Rejuvenation Mechanism [NRRM]’ or given any other suitable name. The NRRM may also consider the observations with regard to setting up of national, State or district environment data grid at appropriate levels as an effective monitoring strategy.”

Other steps in terms of action plans for abatement of pollution and rejuvenation of rivers be taken effectively. The process of rejuvenation of rivers need not be confined to only 351 stretches but may be applicable to all small, medium and big polluted rivers, including those dried up. Earlier, the green panel had constituted a Central Monitoring Committee to prepare and enforce a national plan to make the 351 river stretches pollution-free.

Benefit of the NewsRiver pollution problem

India, China review status at LAC #GS2 #IR

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to review the ongoing disengagement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

In a message on Twitter, Mr. Jaishankar said he “spoke to State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi this afternoon” and “discussed the implementation of our Moscow Agreement and reviewed the status of disengagement”.

The two Ministers had met in Moscow in September and agreed that the situation was “not in the interest of either side” and to continue dialogue and “quickly disengage”.

Working out the modalities, however, was complicated and took several months. Both sides agreed on a plan to disengage at the ninth round of military-level talks in January, which began to be implemented earlier this month.

Ministry of External Affairs said the completion of disengagement on the north and the south banks of the Pangong Lake last week was “a significant first step” towards resolving the remaining issues.

“Both sides view the smooth and successful completion of disengagement in the north and south bank as a significant first step as this forms a basis for resolution of remaining issues to achieve the eventual goal of complete disengagement in all friction areas. “The two sides have agreed to work towards a mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues.”

He said as agreed by both sides, the 10th round of meetings between Corps Commanders was held on February 20, within 48 hours of the completion of disengagement on the north and the south banks of Pangong Lake.

‘Misleading comments’

India has not conceded any territory as a result of this agreement.” He added, “On the contrary, it has enforced observance and respect for LAC and it has prevented any unilateral change in the status quo.”

Army Chief Gen. Manoj Naravane said disengagement at the lake was “a win win” situation for both sides, but cautioned that there was a long way to go towards full disengagement, and thereafter, de-escalation. 

Benefit of the NewsIndia- China relations

President’s Rule in Puducherry notified #GS2 #Governance

President’s Rule was imposed in the Union Territory of Puducherry and the Legislative Assembly was placed under suspended animation. A day ago, the Union Cabinet approved a proposal by the Ministry to dissolve the Assembly and impose President’s Rule in the Union Territory.

The notification said President Ram Nath Kovind had received a report from the administrator of the Union Territory on February 22 and “after considering the report and other information”, the President was “satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the administration of the Union Territory of Puducherry cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 (20 of 1963)”.

Union Territories are administered in accordance with the provisions of Article 239 to 241 of the Constitution, and according to the Allocation of Business Rules, 1961, certain subjects pertaining to Union Territories, namely Legislative matters, Finance and Budget and Services, have been allocated to the Home Ministry. The decision comes days after the Congress-led government lost power in a vote of confidence.

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INCOIS to go for aerial mapping of ocean floor #GS1 #Geography

The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) is planning to take the help of the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) for airline mapping of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshwadeep to get a better picture of the ocean floor, also called ‘bathymetric’ study.

“NRSC has already done a similar high resolution topographic Airborne Laser Terrain Mapping (ALTM) for entire coastal areas of the country and we are in the process of integrating the data for a 3D multi-hazard mapping of both the east and west coastline for a more precise picture of the ocean floor.

Such a study has become imperative in view of the recent tsunamis of the Indonesian coasts where more than the quake related high waves, damage was due to landslides that had under the sea beds causing sudden wave surge leading to much damage without giving sufficient time to alert people, he pointed out.

The research institute, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, had also identified ‘gaps’ across the coast of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha for installing more tide gauges for better monitoring of the sea and more accurate prediction of impending disasters like cyclones.

In the meantime, INCOIS scientists in association with their counterparts in the Chennai-based National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) and an United States independent scientific agency, Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), have been mining the data recorded by a unique ‘Flux Buoy’ retrieved from the Bay of Bengal off the Kolkota coast, a few months ago.

The buoy was dropped off into the sea to monitor the temperatures, pressures, salinity, radiation and geo-chemical changes at various depths in a high resolution scale, compared to other buoys in the seas.

Benefit of the NewsAbout INCOIS

Inscription on Vijayanagar king’s death discovered #GS1 #History

The first-ever epigraphical reference to the date of death of Vijayanagar king Krishnadevaraya has been discovered at Honnenahalli village in Tumakuru district.

As per the inscription which was deciphered by scholars, Krishnadevaraya, one of the greatest emperors of India who ruled from the South, died on October 17, 1529, Sunday, and incidentally this day was marked by lunar eclipse

The inscription is engraved on a slab kept on the north side of Gopalakrishna temple at Honnenahalli in Tumakuru district and is written in Kannada language and characters. It records the demise of Kṛishṇadēvarāya _(Vīrakṛishṇarāya mahārāyalu yī tathā tithiyalu astamayarāgalu)_ in Śaka 1451, Virōdhi, śu. 15, lunar eclipse, which corresponds to 1529 AD, October 17, Sunday.

The inscription also registers the gift of the village Honnenahalli, situated in Tumakuru, for conducting worship and providing offerings to the god Veeraprasanna Hanumantha of Tumakuru by Timmappanna Nayaka along with some officials and inhabitants of Tumakuru. 

Studying the new discovery with another inscription engraved on the north and west walls of the Kalakahstishvara temple at Sri Kalahasti in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh, it has been concluded that King Achyutharaya got himself coronated on the fourth day after the death of Krishnadevaraya.

The Kalahasti inscription refers to the date of Achyutaraya’s coronation as October 21, 1529 AD. Normally, the death of kings were not recorded in the inscriptions and this was one of those rare records.

Benefit of the NewsAbout Kalahasti inscription

Pandemic generation hit hard: CSE #GS2 #SocialIssues

The country is all set to usher in a “pandemic generation”, with 375 million children (from newborns to 14-year-olds) likely to suffer long-lasting impacts. The challenges could range from being underweight, stunting and increased child mortality, to losses in education and work productivity, according to the State of Environment Report, 2021, released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Over 500 million children have been forced out of school globally and India accounts for more than half of them. “COVID-19 has made the world’s poor poorer. “115 million additional people might get pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic — and most of them live in South Asia.”

India ranked 117 among 192 nations in terms of sustainable development and was now behind all South Asian nations, except Pakistan, according to the report.

India’s air, water and land have become more polluted between 2009 and 2018. Of 88 major industrial clusters in the country, according to the Central Pollution Control Board, 35 showed overall environmental degradation, 33 pointed to worsening air quality, 45 had more polluted water and in 17, land pollution became worse. Tarapur in Maharashtra emerged as the most polluted cluster.

‘Lack of action’

CSE experts pointed out that this data clearly indicated a lack of action over the years to control and reduce pollution even in areas that were already identified as critically or severely polluted.

When ranked on the basis of achieving Sustainable Development Goals, the best performing States were Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. The worst performers were Bihar, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Uttar Pradesh, the report stated.

Forestland diversion continued unabated in the country. Over 11,000 hectares were diverted in 22 States in 2019. Eight coal projects granted clearance in ‘no-go’ areas would divert 19,614 hectares of forestland, fell over 1 million trees, and evict over 10,000 families. Sixty-seven million Indians died due to air pollution in 2019, the report said. The economic cost was over $36,000 million, equivalent to 1.36% of the country’s GDP.

Benefit of the NewsState of Environment Report, 2021

‘Bad bank’ move will not hit existing ARCs #GS3 #Economy

The ‘bad bank’ proposed in the Union Budget will not jeopardise the activity of existing asset reconstruction companies (ARCs). He added that the central bank was in the process of upgrading their regulatory structure.

Advocating a durable push for Indian exports through free trade pacts with ‘strategically important economies,’ Mr. Das warned that the recovery in global trade was uneven and sought urgent attention from global policymakers to rein in disruptions in global supply chains caused by a steep surge in shipping costs and delivery times.

Refining and upgrading the ARCs’ regulatory architecture is something that is getting our attention to ensure that they have skin in the game and are very much in business.

The Budget proposal for setting up a new ARC, he said, had been mooted by public sector banks, adding that there was scope for a strong ARC formed by the banks themselves.

It’s not really a bad bank (but) an ARC-type entity that will be set up to take over the stressed assets from the books of public sector banks and try to resolve them like any other ARC. So that is targeting a specific set of bad assets which certain groups of PSBs hold. In no way will it jeopardise the activity of existing ARCs.

Export worries

Even though merchandise trade has shown incipient signs of revival since end-2020, recovery in services trade is yet to gain traction as subdued cross-border tourism and travel restrictions continue to weigh on the overall performance of the sector.

Uneven global trade recovery led by a few Asian countries and select sectors such as medical equipment and electronic products raises concerns regarding its sustainability.

A crucial impediment to revival of global trading activity was the continued disruptions in global supply chains, accompanied by a steep rise in shipping costs since November 2020 and longer delivery times leading to rising commodity prices.

Key considerations should be to identify countries and regions that not only have the potential as a market for domestic goods and services but also have the scope to enhance domestic competitiveness.