UPSC Exam  >  UPSC Notes  >  Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly  >  Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 31st December 2023) Part - 2

Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 31st December 2023) Part - 2 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC PDF Download

Illegal Sand Mining

Context: The recent crackdown on sand smugglers in Bihar highlights a critical issue: illegal sand mining. This unlawful extraction of primary natural sand from various environments poses severe threats to ecosystems and communities. Understanding the nuances of sand mining, its repercussions, and the initiatives to combat this illicit activity is crucial in safeguarding our environment.

Understanding Sand Mining

Sand mining involves the removal of primary natural sand and sand resources from terrestrial, riverine, coastal, or marine environments. It serves the purpose of extracting valuable minerals, metals, crushed stone, and sand for various industrial uses, primarily in construction projects.

Sources of Sand in India

  • India's sand sources primarily include rivers, lakes, reservoirs, coastal/marine areas, palaeo-channels, and manufactured sand (M-Sand).

Causes of Illegal Sand Mining

Several factors contribute to the proliferation of illegal sand mining:

  • Lack of Regulation: Weak enforcement mechanisms and inadequate regulatory frameworks fuel illegal sand extraction.
  • High Demand: The construction industry's insatiable need for sand exacerbates illegal extraction, putting immense pressure on riverbeds and coastal regions.
  • Corruption and Mafia Influence: Organized sand mafias and corrupt practices perpetuate illegal mining, often in collusion with authorities.
  • Limited Sustainable Alternatives: Insufficient adoption of eco-friendly alternatives like manufactured sand maintains the reliance on natural sand, worsening environmental repercussions.

Consequences of Sand Mining

The impact of unregulated sand mining is devastating:

  • Erosion and Habitat Disruption: Unchecked sand mining alters riverbeds, leading to increased erosion and disruption of aquatic habitats.
  • Flooding and Sedimentation: Depletion of sand from riverbeds contributes to increased flooding and sedimentation, adversely affecting aquatic ecosystems.
  • Groundwater Depletion: Deep pits formed due to mining can lower groundwater levels, leading to water scarcity.
  • Biodiversity Loss: Sand mining causes habitat disruption and degradation, resulting in significant biodiversity loss, affecting both aquatic and riparian species.

Initiatives to Tackle Illegal Sand Mining

Several legislative and regulatory measures aim to curb illegal sand mining:

  • MMDR Act, 1957: Classifying sand as a "minor mineral," this act grants administrative control to State Governments to prevent illegal mining.
  • Environment Impact Assessment (EIA): Mandating approval for all sand mining activities, even in smaller areas, to address environmental impacts.
  • Sustainable Sand Management Guidelines (SSMG) 2016: Issued by the Ministry of Environment, these guidelines focus on environmentally sustainable and socially responsible mining practices.
  • Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines: Providing a uniform protocol for monitoring sand mining, utilizing advanced surveillance technologies like drones.

Case in Focus: The Sone River

  • The recent crackdown on sand smugglers in Bihar was near the Sone River, the Ganges' significant tributary, originating in Chhattisgarh and flowing through several states before merging with the Ganges near Patna.

Conclusion

Illegal sand mining poses a grave threat to our environment, necessitating stringent regulations, enforcement, and sustainable alternatives. Addressing this issue demands concerted efforts from governments, industries, and communities to protect our ecosystems from irreversible damage caused by unchecked sand extraction.


Decoding Good Governance

Context: Good Governance is a cornerstone of societal progress and equitable development. Its essence lies in the effective functioning of institutions, transparency in decision-making, and citizen-centric policies. India recently commemorated Good Governance Day, underscoring the importance of accountability in governance on the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This annual event serves as a reminder to enhance citizen awareness and adherence to ethical governance practices.

Understanding Good Governance

  • Governance encapsulates the processes, systems, and structures directing organizations or societies. Good governance, on the other hand, encompasses values ensuring public institutions manage public resources while upholding human rights, the rule of law, and societal needs. 
  • The World Bank emphasizes the significance of effective government capacity, citizen respect for governing institutions, and the selection and monitoring of governments.

Basic Principles of Good Governance

  • The World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators evaluate governance across nations based on six fundamental measures. These indicators encompass voice and accountability, political stability, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of corruption.

Challenges in Indian Governance

  • India faces multifaceted challenges despite strides in governance. Issues such as corruption, social inequality, ineffective policy implementation, inadequate judicial infrastructure, environmental degradation, and political polarization require immediate attention. 
  • For instance, the Corruption Perception Index highlighted concerns about India's position (85th out of 180 countries) regarding bribery and misuse of public funds.

Major Initiatives in Indian Governance

  • Several initiatives have been instrumental in enhancing good governance. These include transparency measures like the Right to Information Act and platforms such as CPGRAMS for grievance redressal. E-governance initiatives, citizen charters, citizen participation platforms like MyGov, and educational reforms like the Right to Education Act signify steps towards fostering a transparent and accountable governance framework.

Future Strategies for Good Governance

  • The way forward necessitates innovative strategies. Establishing secure data platforms for citizen participation, bureaucratic reforms, fast-tracking judicial processes through technology adoption, AI-powered grievance redressal, community-based innovation labs, futuristic education curriculums, and aligning governance with Sustainable Development Goal 16 are imperative.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee: A Legacy in Governance

  • A tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose political journey and contributions left an indelible mark on India's governance landscape. His leadership, spanning multiple terms as Prime Minister, earned him accolades and recognition for his statesmanship.

Interrelation between Governance and Citizen Participation

  • The interdependence of government effectiveness and citizen participation is crucial. This relationship shapes the functioning of the governance system and underscores the significance of active citizen engagement in ensuring a robust governance framework.

Ethical Governance and its Significance

  • Ethical governance is the cornerstone of a just society, emphasizing integrity, accountability, and fairness in decision-making processes.

Conclusion

Decoding good governance involves addressing challenges, implementing proactive measures, and fostering an inclusive and participatory system. India's journey towards effective governance requires continuous reforms, citizen involvement, and ethical practices.


Progress in Ending Child Marriage

Context: Child marriage, a deeply rooted social issue, faces ongoing scrutiny and efforts for eradication worldwide. A recent study published in 'The Lancet Global Health' journal brings to light India's battle against this practice, showcasing both advancements and challenges in curbing this societal ill.

Major Trends Unveiled

National Scenario

  • Notable reduction in girl child marriages from 49% in 1993 to 22% in 2021.
  • Decrease in boy child marriages from 7% in 2006 to 2% in 2021, signifying a national decline.
  • Concerningly, progress stagnated between 2016 and 2021, with certain states witnessing an alarming rise in child marriages. States like Manipur, Punjab, Tripura, and West Bengal saw an increase in girl child marriages, while Chhattisgarh, Goa, Manipur, and Punjab reported a surge in boy child marriages.

Global Perspective

  • Globally, significant strides have been made against child marriage, but the Covid-19 pandemic poses a threat, potentially putting approximately 10 million more girls at risk of child marriage over a decade.

Factors Influencing Child Marriage

Economic Pressures

  • Poverty-stricken families often resort to child marriage as a means to alleviate economic burdens.
  • Dowry traditions in certain regions influence families to marry off daughters early to avoid higher expenses later.
  • Economic hardships due to natural disasters or crises can drive families towards early marriages for stability.

Social Norms and Gender Dynamics

  • Deep-seated customs and traditions perpetuate the acceptance of early marriage.
  • Pressure from society or family to conform to prevailing norms leads to early marriages, especially for girls.
  • Gender inequality and limited opportunities for girls compared to boys contribute significantly to the prevalence of early marriage.

Impact and Global Objectives

  • UNICEF categorizes child marriage as a human rights violation due to its detrimental effects on the development of both genders.
  • Sustainable Development Goal 5 emphasizes eliminating child marriage by 2030 to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls.

Legislative Framework and Initiatives

Legal Framework in India

  • The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, established legal marriage ages at 21 for men and 18 for women.
  • Introduction of 'Child Marriage Prohibition Officers' aimed at preventing, collecting evidence, counseling against, and raising awareness about child marriages.
  • A bill proposed in 2021 aims to equalize the marriage age for women to 21 to align with men.

Initiatives and Programs

  • The Dhanalakshmi Scheme incentivizes education and discourages child marriage through conditional cash transfers and insurance coverage.
  • Schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao focus on girls' empowerment through education, health, and protection.

Innovative Approaches for the Future

Economic Empowerment

  • Providing vocational training and entrepreneurship opportunities for at-risk girls to offer alternatives to early marriage.
  • Facilitating access to microloans for families to reduce financial pressures leading to early marriages.

Community Engagement and Education

  • Utilizing art-based workshops, theater performances, and media campaigns to educate communities on the adverse effects of child marriage.
  • Engaging local artists and influencers to create impactful awareness campaigns.

Peer Education and Mentorship

  • Training young leaders as advocates against child marriage and empowering them to educate and mentor peers.
  • Incorporating comprehensive education modules within schools to foster discussions and awareness among students.

Conclusion

Child marriage remains a significant hurdle despite progress, necessitating multifaceted strategies involving legal reforms, societal engagement, and educational initiatives to achieve the ultimate goal of eradicating this harmful practice.


Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023

Context: This bill has garnered attention due to its substantial overhaul of the existing legal framework. It seeks to replace the obsolete Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, reflecting the evolving landscape of media and information dissemination.

Key Features of the Bill

The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023 introduces several noteworthy features:

  • Registration of Periodicals: The bill focuses on the registration of periodicals, encompassing publications containing public news or comments. However, it explicitly excludes books, scientific journals, and academic publications. This shift emphasizes a nuanced approach to different forms of printed media.
  • Streamlined Registration Protocols: Embracing digitalization, the bill allows periodical publishers to register online through the Press Registrar General and designated local authorities. Moreover, individuals convicted of terrorism or actions against state security are prohibited from publishing periodicals.
  • Foreign Periodicals Regulation: Reproduction of foreign periodicals in India mandates prior approval from the central government. Specific protocols for registering foreign periodicals will be delineated, ensuring regulatory control and compliance.
  • Role of Press Registrar General: The bill introduces the pivotal role of the Press Registrar General, responsible for issuing registration certificates for all periodicals. Their responsibilities span maintaining a periodical register, establishing title guidelines, verifying circulation figures, and managing registration revisions, suspensions, or cancellations.
  • Printing Press Registration: Declarations regarding printing presses can now be submitted online to the Press Registrar General, streamlining the registration process.
  • Suspension and Cancellation of Registration: The Press Registrar General holds authority to suspend a periodical's registration due to various reasons, including furnishing false information or discontinuity in publication. Failure to rectify these issues may lead to registration cancellation.
  • Penalties and Appeals: Empowering the Press Registrar General to levy penalties for non-compliance, the bill stipulates imprisonment for up to six months for violations. Additionally, it provides avenues for appeals against registration refusals or imposed penalties before the Press and Registration Appellate Board.

Historical Context: Pre-Independence Press Legislation

Delving into India's history, several pre-independence legislations shaped press regulations:

  • Censorship under Lord Wellesley in 1799 imposed strict wartime press controls, which were later relaxed by Lord Hastings in 1818.
  • Licensing Regulations by John Adams (1823) penalized unlicensed presses, predominantly impacting Indian-language newspapers.
  • The Press Act of 1835, also known as the Metcalfe Act, repealed earlier restrictions, earning Metcalfe recognition as the "Liberator of the Indian press."
  • The Vernacular Press Act of 1878 aimed to regulate vernacular newspapers and prevent seditious content, limiting avenues for appeals.
  • Subsequent acts during emergencies, like the Licensing Act during the 1857 Revolt, further tightened regulations, granting the government powers to halt circulation and seize printed material.

Conclusion

The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023, stands as a watershed moment, modernizing the governance of the press while upholding journalistic freedoms. Its provisions reflect a balance between regulation and liberty, acknowledging the evolving media landscape and technological advancements. As this bill takes effect, it is poised to shape the future of India's press landscape, facilitating a more transparent, accountable, and dynamic media ecosystem.


India-Russia Bilateral Meeting

Context: India and Russia, two nations with a historical alliance that transcends decades, recently convened for a pivotal bilateral meeting. This high-profile interaction focused on diverse sectors, encompassing economic collaborations, diplomatic initiatives, historical context, and the evolving dynamics of their relationship. The meeting held between the External Affairs Minister of India and Russian counterparts resulted in significant agreements and strategic discussions, marking a critical juncture in their ties.

Key Highlights of the India-Russia Bilateral Meeting

The core agenda of this bilateral meeting underscored an array of vital aspects:

  • Economic Collaboration: The emphasis was placed on reinforcing strategic collaboration in defense, space exploration, nuclear energy, and technology sharing, showcasing the enduring nature of their partnership.
  • Agreement on Nuclear Power Plants: India and Russia sealed agreements to progress with future units of the Kudankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu. This collaboration is instrumental, given India's operation of two Russian-built nuclear plants, with four more under construction.
  • Diplomatic Initiatives: Deliberations extended to multilateral forums such as BRICS, SCO, and UN affairs, where both nations converge on mutual interests, fostering global collaborations.
  • Indo-Russia Relations: Historical Context and Contemporary Dynamics

Understanding the trajectory of Indo-Russia relations is crucial:

  • Historical Background: Originating from a robust alliance during the Cold War era, India and the Soviet Union shared a multifaceted relationship. Post the Soviet Union's dissolution, Russia inherited this relationship, resulting in a Special Strategic Relation.
  • Contemporary Scenario: Recent years have seen a downturn in relations due to various geopolitical factors, including Russia's proximity to China and Pakistan, leading to concerns for India.

Various Facets of Relations

Several facets encapsulate the breadth of Indo-Russia relations:

  • Bilateral Trade: India's bilateral trade with Russia surged, reaching around USD 13 Billion in 2021-22, reinforcing Russia's position as India's significant trading partner.
  • Defense and Security Relations: Both nations conduct joint military exercises and have extensive military hardware collaborations, shaping their defense and security landscape.
  • Science and Technology Collaboration: Integral in their partnership, spanning from India's space program to contemporary collaborations in nanotechnologies and quantum computing.

Significance of Russia for India

Russia holds pivotal significance for India in various domains:

  • Balancing China: Amidst tensions with China, Russia's role in de-escalating disputes has been pivotal, reflected in trilateral discussions post the Ladakh clashes.
  • New Sectors of Engagement: Exploring new avenues of economic engagement like mining, agro-industrial sectors, and high technology initiatives promises to diversify their partnership.
  • Combatting Terrorism and Multilateral Support: Collaborating on counter-terrorism efforts and garnering support in multilateral forums amplifies India's global stance.

Future Trajectory and Conclusion

Looking ahead, India-Russia ties are poised to evolve further, focusing on expanding collaborations, leveraging each other's strengths, and aligning on global issues. As Russia continues to be a vital defense partner, both nations are exploring opportunities for broader cooperation, including utilizing India as a production base for Russian-origin equipment and services.


Shahi Idgah and Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple Dispute

Context: In a recent development, the Allahabad High Court has mandated a survey of the Shahi Idgah, a historic three-domed mosque situated in Mathura. This decision arises from the court's decision to appoint a commission to inspect the mosque, which stands adjacent to the revered Krishna Janmabhoomi temple.

Tracing the Historical Context

  • The disputed land has a long and complex history. The premises, where the Shahi Idgah and the Krishna Janmabhoomi temple stand today, were subject to constructions and reconstructions over centuries. Raja Veer Singh Bundela erected a temple on this site in 1618, which was later replaced by the mosque constructed by Aurangzeb in 1670.
  • The Krishna Janmasthan temple in Mathura has ancient roots, believed to have been built around 2,000 years ago. The current discord stems from the demolition of the Keshava Deva temple under Aurangzeb's directive in 1670.

Legal Ownership and Historical Claims

  • Over time, the land passed through various hands, from Marathas to the British. In 1815, the Raja of Benaras acquired the 13.77-acre land from the East India Company. The establishment of the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Trust solidified ownership rights over the temple.
  • Subsequently, in 1968, an agreement between the temple authority and the Shahi Idgah Masjid Trust led to a division of the land. However, the current dispute revolves around the demand by temple petitioners for complete possession of the entire parcel of land.

Present-Day Standoff and Legal Proceedings

  • The recent plea for a survey was filed by representatives of the Hindu deity, Shri Krishna, and others, asserting that the mosque was constructed over the birthplace of Shri Krishna. Since the Babri Masjid judgment in 2019, numerous cases related to the Krishna Janmabhoomi and Shahi Idgah have been presented in the Mathura court.
  • The Allahabad High Court took cognizance of these cases and transferred them from the Mathura Court, consolidating them to be addressed by itself. Arguments presented by the U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board and the Shahi Idgah Masjid Committee refute the claims, contending that there is no evidence supporting the assertion that Lord Krishna's birthplace lies beneath the mosque.

The Legal Landscape: Places of Worship Act, 1991

  • The Places of Worship Act, 1991, assumes significance in this dispute. Enacted to maintain the religious character of places of worship as they existed on August 15, 1947, the Act prohibits conversion and ensures the preservation of religious sanctity.
  • It delineates provisions to prevent conversion of religious places, maintain their religious character, and nullify ongoing legal proceedings regarding the alteration of a place of worship's religious identity pre-1947.
  • However, the Allahabad High Court's recent position in the Gyanvapi case indicates that the Act does not distinctly define the "religious character of any place of worship." It asserts that such determinations can only emerge from trials based on documentary and oral evidence on a case-by-case basis.

Conclusion

The Shahi Idgah and Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple Dispute encapsulate a historical, legal, and religious tussle intertwined with layers of heritage and ownership claims. The recent court interventions and the invocation of the Places of Worship Act add complexity to an already intricate issue, seeking to address the rightful ownership and preserve the religious identities of these revered sites.


The document Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 31st December 2023) Part - 2 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly.
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FAQs on Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 31st December 2023) Part - 2 - Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

1. What are the consequences of illegal sand mining?
Ans. Illegal sand mining can have several negative consequences. It can lead to environmental degradation, including soil erosion and loss of biodiversity. It can also disrupt river ecosystems and cause floods. Additionally, illegal sand mining can result in the depletion of groundwater resources and pose a threat to the livelihoods of local communities who depend on rivers for agriculture and fishing.
2. How is good governance decoded?
Ans. Good governance can be decoded by examining certain key elements. These include transparency, accountability, participation, and the rule of law. Transparency ensures that information is accessible and shared with the public, allowing for informed decision-making. Accountability holds those in power responsible for their actions and ensures that they act in the best interest of the public. Participation ensures that all stakeholders have a voice in decision-making processes. The rule of law ensures that laws are applied fairly and impartially, without discrimination.
3. What progress has been made in ending child marriage?
Ans. There has been significant progress in ending child marriage globally. Efforts by governments, civil society organizations, and international bodies have led to increased awareness about the harmful effects of child marriage. Many countries have enacted laws to raise the minimum age of marriage, and initiatives have been launched to provide education and support for girls at risk of child marriage. Additionally, campaigns and advocacy efforts have helped change societal norms and attitudes towards child marriage, leading to a reduction in its prevalence.
4. What is the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023 about?
Ans. The Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023 is a proposed legislation in India. It aims to regulate the registration and functioning of newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals. The bill seeks to ensure compliance with ethical standards, prevent the spread of fake news, and protect the rights of journalists. It outlines the procedures for registration, renewal, and cancellation of registrations for periodicals. The bill also includes provisions related to the appointment of a press registrar and the establishment of a press council to address grievances and maintain professional standards in the media industry.
5. What was discussed in the India-Russia Bilateral Meeting?
Ans. The India-Russia Bilateral Meeting covered various aspects of the bilateral relationship between the two countries. Discussions likely included topics such as defense cooperation, trade and economic relations, cultural exchanges, and regional and global issues of mutual interest. The meeting may have also addressed ongoing joint projects and initiatives between India and Russia in areas such as energy, space exploration, and technology. The aim of the bilateral meeting is to strengthen ties and explore avenues for cooperation in various sectors for the mutual benefit of both nations.
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