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Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 1 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC PDF Download

Passport Revocations of Goans

Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 1 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

Context: Recently, a memorandum from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has resulted in over 100 individuals from Goa having their passports revoked in recent months.

  • These individuals, possibly unaware of the memorandum, are accused of withholding crucial information when attempting to surrender their passports after obtaining citizenship in Portugal.

Reasons for Passport Revocation:

Goa's Historical Link with Portugal:

  • Goa, a former Portuguese colony, was under Portuguese control for about 450 years, from 1510 to 1961.

As per Portuguese law:

  • Those born in Goa before December 19, 1961 (the day Goa was liberated) and their descendants have the option to register as Portuguese citizens.
  • Many Goans have registered their births in the Central Registry in Lisbon and gained Portuguese citizenship.
  • A Portuguese passport offers visa-free access to several countries, including the UK and the European Union.

The 2022 MEA Memorandum:

  • On November 30, 2022, the MEA issued a memorandum specifically addressing the "surrender of Indian passport due to acquisition of foreign nationality by a former Indian citizen."
  • The memorandum outlines various scenarios related to passport surrender certificates, leading to the revocation of passports for some Goans.
  • Under section 10(3)(b) of the Passport Act of 1967, passports obtained by concealing another country's citizenship can be cancelled, even if not used for travel.
  • Previously, passport authorities imposed penalties for surrendering an Indian passport, but a 2020 Kerala High Court ruling deemed this practice invalid, stating that penalties cannot be imposed, only prosecutions for violations of the Passports Act.

Passport Revocation and OCI Card Issuance:

  • Dual Citizenship: Since India does not permit dual citizenship, Goans acquiring Portuguese passports must renounce their Indian citizenship.
  • OCI Status: With their Indian passports revoked, these individuals are unable to apply for Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI).
  • A "surrender certificate" was previously required for OCI card applications, but the passport revocation renders this option unavailable.
  • The current MEA memorandum instructs passport authorities to issue "revocation certificates" instead of surrender certificates, enabling individuals from former Portuguese territories who acquired Portuguese citizenship to apply for OCI.
  • OCI status allows foreign citizens of Indian origin to reside and work in India indefinitely.

What is Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Card?

OCI was introduced to address the demand for dual citizenship among the Indian diaspora, particularly in developed nations.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, an OCI is someone who:

  • Was an Indian citizen on or after January 26, 1950; or
  • Was eligible for Indian citizenship on January 26, 1950; or
  • Is a child or grandchild of such individuals, among other criteria.
  • Under Section 7A of OCI card rules, applicants are ineligible if they, their parents, or grandparents have ever been citizens of Pakistan or Bangladesh.
  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2015 merged the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) category with OCI in 2015.

Historical Context:

  • The OCI Card scheme was inaugurated during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in 2005.
  • It was introduced to recognize the enduring emotional ties of the Indian diaspora to their homeland and their contributions to the nation's progress.

Benefits:

  • Lifelong visa for multiple entries, serving various purposes, to visit India.
  • Exemption from registration with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) regardless of the stay duration.
  • Parity with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in financial, economic, and educational aspects.

Limitations and Restrictions:

  • No voting rights.
  • Prohibition from acquiring agricultural or farmland.
  • Engagement in all activities except research, requiring special permission from the concerned Indian Mission/Post/FRRO.
  • OCI holders cannot participate in elections or hold public office, reflecting the government's commitment to maintaining a clear distinction between citizenship and overseas citizenship.

Current Status:

  • The OCI card scheme is a pivotal aspect of the Indian government's efforts to enhance its ties with the diaspora.
  • As of March 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs had issued over 3.5 million OCI cards, with a significant number issued to foreign nationals in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.

Question for Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 1
Try yourself:
Which law allows the revocation of passports obtained by concealing another country's citizenship?
View Solution


Hydrocarbons Exploration and Extraction

Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 1 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC


Context: The significance of hydrocarbons in triggering the two Industrial Revolutions cannot be overstated. These compounds powered large engines, revolutionizing industries worldwide. However, this widespread use led to severe contamination of air, water, and the atmosphere, ultimately exacerbating global warming.

  • Given the escalating threat of global warming, it is imperative for the world to explore less harmful ways of harnessing hydrocarbons.

Understanding Hydrocarbons and their Storage:

Overview:

  • Hydrocarbons are organic compounds composed of hydrogen and carbon. While carbon atoms form the backbone of the compound, hydrogen atoms attach to them in various configurations.
  • Hydrocarbon Exploration involves the search for deposits of hydrocarbons, such as petroleum and natural gas, within the Earth's crust, commonly referred to as oil and gas exploration.
  • Kerogens, lumps of organic matter, serve as the primary source of hydrocarbons in the rocky underground.

Formation:

  • Kerogen deposition can stem from three potential sources: remnants of a lake (lacustrine), a vast marine ecosystem, or a terrestrial ecosystem.
  • Over time, the rocks surrounding kerogen may undergo increased warmth and compaction, exerting pressure on the kerogen, leading to its breakdown.

Types of Kerogens:

  • Lacustrine kerogen yields waxy oils.
  • Marine kerogen yields oil and gas.
  • Terrestrial kerogen yields light oils, gas, and coal.

Types: Based on their structure and bonding, Hydrocarbons can be classified as:

Alkanes (Saturated):

  • Structure: Consists of single bonds between carbon atoms.
  • General Formula: Cn H2n+2 . Examples: Methane (CH4) and ethane (C2H6).
  • Properties: Non-reactive; used primarily as fuels.

Alkenes (Unsaturated with Double Bonds):

  • Structure: Contain at least one double bond between carbon atoms.
  • General Formula: Cn H2n . Examples: Ethylene (C2H4) and propylene (C3H6).
  • Properties: More reactive than alkanes due to the double bond; used in chemical synthesis and as a precursor for plastics.

Alkynes (Unsaturated with Triple Bonds):

  • Structure: Contain at least one triple bond between carbon atoms.
  • General Formula: Cn H2n−2
  • Examples: Acetylene (C2H2).
  • Properties: Extremely reactive; used in welding (oxy-acetylene torches) and as a chemical building block.

Aromatic Hydrocarbons (Arenes):

  • Structure: Contain rings of carbon atoms with alternating double bonds (aromatic rings).
  • Examples: Benzene (C6H6) and toluene (C7H8).
  • Properties: Stable due to their aromatic rings; used in the manufacture of dyes, detergents, and explosives.

Formation and Storage:

  • Hydrocarbons occur naturally in plants, trees, and fossil fuels. Such compounds serve as the primary components of petroleum and natural gas and can be utilised in a wide range of different applications, such as fuels, and the production of plastics.
  • Crude Oil and Natural gas are found under Sedimentary Rocks.
  • These reservoirs are created when a more resistant rock type overlays a less resistant one, in effect creating a lid that causes hydrocarbons to accumulate below it.

Their formation takes place over millions of years. The process of formation is as follows:

  • The dead plants and animals get buried underground providing the carbon content for the hydrocarbons to be formed.
  • Eventually a layer of mud settles over the buried debris, and mud gets converted to rock.
  • Intense heat and pressure changes transform this debris into fossil fuels. I.E. crude oil and natural gas.
  • The absence of oxygen and air is an important requisite for the formation.
  • If the rock is impervious the crude oil remains locked under the sedimentary rock.
  • Natural gas being less dense floats over the Crude oil.

How are Hydrocarbons Accessed and Extracted?

Accessing Hydrocarbons:

  • Creating Production Wells: The initial step involves establishing production wells, strategically positioned to maximize reservoir drainage. These wells are constructed using drilling machinery.
  • Casing and Cementing: Steel casings, narrower than the wellbore, are inserted and surrounded by cement slurry to fortify against collapse and prevent fluid intrusion.
  • Drilling Process: Drilling fluid, circulated around the drill bit, facilitates cooling and removes rock cuttings. Careful pressure control is crucial to prevent hydrocarbons from surging out like a geyser.
  • Mud-logging: This process involves recording rock cuttings by depth and analyzing their properties.
  • Drilling Rigs: Drilling is carried out by drilling rigs equipped with generators and batteries to power various operations. Offshore rigs enhance stability and aid extraction through water columns.

Extracting Hydrocarbons:

  • Completion Stage: Hydrocarbons are drained by withdrawing the drill string and perforating small holes into the casing.
  • Production Stage: Systems at the wellhead regulate hydrocarbon outflow using valves. Pump jacks are employed to lift hydrocarbons from the well bottom when natural pressure differences are insufficient.
  • Production Phases: Primary, secondary, and tertiary phases are employed based on maintenance needs. Primary phase relies on natural processes, while secondary involves artificial pressure induction. Tertiary phase utilizes enhanced recovery methods like steam injection.

Well Plugging and Decommissioning:

  • Extraction ceases when it becomes unprofitable. Abandoned wells are plugged to prevent hydrocarbon and gas leakage.
  • Decommissioning involves permanently sealing wells, but it's often financially burdensome for operators.

Electoral Reforms in India

Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 1 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC


Context: Amidst India's ongoing General Elections 2024, attention is drawn towards past electoral reforms, spanning from the establishment of the Election Commission to the implementation of Electronic Voting Machines, and recent modifications in the appointment process of election commissioners.

  • These reforms signify the continual evolution and improvement of India's electoral framework, encapsulating the essence of democratic advancement.

Key Electoral Reforms in India:

  • Formation of Election Commission and First General Election: The Election Commission of India was established on January 25, 1950, under the leadership of Sukumar Sen, initially comprising only a Chief Election Commissioner.
  • The inaugural General Election, conducted from October 1951 to February 1952, witnessed the participation of 17.5 crore voters amidst logistical challenges.
  • Despite challenges such as a largely illiterate electorate and refugee populations, India embraced universal suffrage for citizens above 21 years.
  • Reduction of Voting Age: The 61st Constitutional Amendment Act of 1984 lowered the voting age from 21 years to 18 years for both Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
  • This amendment aimed to empower the unrepresented youth of the nation to engage in the political process and express their opinions.
  • Deputation to Election Commission: In 1985, a provision was introduced stating that officers and staff engaged in the preparation, revision, and correction of electoral rolls for elections are considered to be on deputation to the Election Commission for the duration of their employment.
  • During this period, such personnel would operate under the control, supervision, and discipline of the Election Commission.

ECI as Multi-Member Commission: The Election Commission of India (ECI) became a Multi-Member Commission for the first time in 1989.

  • On 1st January 1990, the positions of these additional election commissioners were abolished.
  • However, the ECI became a three-member body again on 1st October 1993 (with one Chief Election Commissioner and two election commissioners), which remains the structure today.

Transition to Ballot Papers from Coloured Ballot Box: In the early years of Indian elections, individual coloured ballot boxes were used for each candidate.

  • Voters would cast their votes by dropping paper ballots into the respective boxes, a method that required meticulous counting and posed challenges in preventing fraud and manipulation.

The introduction of ballot papers marked a crucial step towards streamlining the voting process.

  • Voters would mark their preferences on paper ballots, which were then collected and counted manually.
  • While this method improved vote counting accuracy, it still had limitations such as potential errors and delays in announcing results.
  • Electronic Voting Machines: In 1989, a provision was made to facilitate the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in elections.
  • The EVMs were used for the first time in 1998 on experimental basis in selected constituencies in the elections to the Assemblies of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.
  • The EVMs were used for the first time in the general elections (entire state) to the Assembly of Goa in 1999.
  • They are indigenously designed, developed and manufactured by Bharat Electronic Ltd. and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. under technical guidance of the Election Commission's Technical Expert Committee.

Provision Against Booth Capturing: In 1989, a provision was made for adjournment of poll or countermanding of elections in case of booth capturing. Booth capturing includes:

  • seizure of a polling station and making polling authorities surrender ballot papers or voting machines
  • taking possession of polling station and allowing only one’s own supporters to exercise their franchise
  • threatening and preventing any elector from going to polling station
  • seizure of the place being used for counting of votes.

Model Code of Conduct (MCC): T.N. Seshan's tenure as CEC was one the most influential periods for the ECI, marked by his efforts to enforce the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) with greater efficacy.

  • Originating in Kerala in 1960, the MCC initially comprised basic 'Dos and Don'ts.'
  • By 1979, the ECI, in collaboration with political parties, expanded the code, including measures to curb the misuse of power by the ruling party for unfair advantages in elections.
  • It was also during his tenure that electors’ photo identity cards (EPICs) were introduced in 1993.
  • Allocation of Time on Electronic Media: Under a 2003 provision, the Election Commission should allocate equitable sharing of time on the cable television network and other electronic media during elections to display or propagate any matter or to address the public.
  • Restrictions Imposed on Exit Polls: According to a 2009 provision, conducting exit polls and publishing results of exit polls would be prohibited during the election to Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies.
  • “Exit-poll” is an opinion survey regarding how electors have voted at an election or how all the electors have performed with regard to the identification of a political party or candidate in an election.
  • Online Enrolment in the Electoral Roll: In 2013, a provision was made for online filing of applications for enrolment in the electoral roll. For this purpose, the Central Government, after consulting the Election Commission, made the rules known as the Registration of the Electors (Amendment) Rules, 2013.
  • None of the Above Option: The Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to include the None of the Above (NOTA) option in ballot papers and EVMs, allowing voters to abstain from voting for any candidate while maintaining ballot secrecy.
  • NOTA was introduced in elections in 2013, ensuring voters' right to abstain from voting discreetly.
  • Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail System: ECI started exploring the possibility of introducing a Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system to increase transparency and verifiability in the poll process.
  • In 2011, a prototype was developed and demonstrated before the ECI and its expert committee.
  • In August 2013, the Central government notified the amended Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, enabling the ECI to use VVPAT with EVMs.
  • The VVPAT was used with EVMs for the first time in a bye-election from the 51-Noksen Assembly Constituency of Nagaland.

Appointment of Election Commissioners: Previously, the President appointed the chief election commissioner and election commissioners based on the recommendation of the central government. 

  • However, in March 2023, the Supreme Court ruling in the Anoop Baranwal vs Union of India Case emphasized the recommendations made by the Dinesh Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms (1990) and the Law Commission's 255th report on Electoral Reforms (2015). 
  • Both committees proposed the formation of a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India (CJI), and the Leader of the Opposition to appoint the CEC and ECs. The recent enactment of the CEC and Other ECs (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) 2023 supersedes the Election Commission Act, 1991, addressing matters such as appointment procedures, salaries, and dismissal procedures for the CEC and ECs. 
  • Under the new law, the President appoints them based on recommendations from a Selection Committee comprising the Prime Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister, and either the Leader of the Opposition or the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha.

Question for Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 1
Try yourself:
Which type of hydrocarbon yields light oils, gas, and coal?
View Solution


National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 1 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

Context: NHRC recently convened a meeting involving all seven national commissions to address the protection of rights for vulnerable sections. The objective was to exchange best practices and coordinate on strategies for implementation.

  • The seven bodies involved are the National Commission for Women (NCW), National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC), National Commission for Scheduled Tribe (NCST), National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), National Commission for Minorities (NCM), National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC), and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.

Outcomes of the Joint Meeting of Human Rights Bodies:

Collaborative Implementation Strategies:

  • NHRC emphasized the necessity for collaboration among the seven national commissions to devise joint strategies for effectively executing existing legislation and schemes aimed at safeguarding human rights.

Learning from Each Other's Experiences:

  • NHRC stressed the significance of drawing lessons from each other's experiences to ensure equality and dignity for marginalized communities such as SC-ST groups, women, and other marginalized sections of society.

Mechanical Cleaning of Septic Tanks:

  • NHRC underlined the importance of mechanically cleaning septic tanks and urged states and local bodies to adhere to NHRC's advisory on this matter.

Research Collaboration:

  • It was proposed that all commissions collaborate on research to prevent duplicating efforts. Common research subjects between NHRC and NCW were highlighted, emphasizing the need for compatibility of state statutory provisions to ensure uniformity in women's property rights.

Challenges in Education and Technology:

  • The challenges of ensuring equitable benefits from the new education policy and emerging technology were discussed, highlighting the need for a change in mindset alongside laws, emphasizing compassion and sensitivity.

Rights of Children:

  • NCPCR highlighted its proactive measures in safeguarding children's rights, including monitoring portals, ensuring rehabilitation of orphaned children, and issuing guidelines for child rights protection.
  • Enhanced Compensation and Challenges Faced by Persons with Disabilities:
  • Challenges faced by persons with disabilities, such as issues with accessing online services due to captcha codes, were discussed. It was acknowledged that with increased rights consciousness among persons with disabilities, related challenges have also grown.

Scope for Cooperation and Structured Approach:

  • The meeting underscored the necessity for enhanced cooperation among commissions and a structured approach to protect societal rights. It emphasized the value of institutional interactions, collaborative advisories, and the utilization of the 'HRCNet portal' for synergy and efficiency.

What is the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)?

About:

  • It ensures the protection of rights related to life, liberty, equality, and dignity of individuals.
  • Rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and international covenants enforceable by Indian courts.

Establishment:

  • Established on 12th October 1993, under the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA), 1993.
  • Amended by the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2006, and Human Rights (Amendment) Act, 2019.
  • Established in conformity with the Paris Principles, adopted for promoting and protecting human rights.

Composition:

  • The Commission consists of a chairperson, five full-time Members and seven deemed Members.
  • Chairman is a former Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge.

Appointment and Tenure:

  • Chairman and members appointed by the President on the recommendations of a six-member committee.
  • The committee consists of the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, leaders of the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament, and the Union Home Minister.
  • The chairman and members hold office for a term of three years or until they reach the age of 70.

Role and Function:

  • Possesses powers of a civil court with judicial proceedings.
  • Empowered to utilise the services of central or state government officers or investigation agencies for investigating human rights violations.
  • Can investigate matters within one year of their occurrence.
  • Functions are primarily recommendatory in nature.

What are the Shortcomings in Functioning of NHRC?

Non-Binding Nature of Recommendations:

  • Although the NHRC investigates human rights violations and provides recommendations, it cannot compel authorities to take specific actions. Its influence remains largely moral rather than legal.

Inability to Punish Violators:

  • The NHRC lacks the authority to punish violators. Despite identifying perpetrators of human rights abuses, the NHRC cannot directly impose penalties or award relief to victims. This limitation undermines its effectiveness.

Limited Role in Armed Forces Cases:

  • The NHRC’s jurisdiction over human rights violations by armed forces is restricted. Cases involving military personnel often fall outside the NHRC’s purview, hindering comprehensive accountability.

Time Limitations in Case of Historical Human Rights Violations:

  • The NHRC cannot consider violations reported after one year. This limitation prevents the NHRC from addressing historical or delayed human rights grievances effectively.

Resource Constraints:

  • The NHRC faces resource shortages. With a high caseload and limited resources, the NHRC struggles to handle investigations, inquiries, and public awareness campaigns efficiently.
  • Several state human rights commissions are working without their chief, and like the NHRC they are also going through shortage of staff.

Lack of Independence:

  • The NHRC’s composition relies on government appointments. Ensuring complete independence from political influence remains a challenge, affecting its credibility.

Need for Proactive Interventions:

  • The NHRC often responds reactively to complaints. A more proactive approach, including preventive measures and early intervention, could enhance its impact.

What are the Steps Need to be Taken to Strengthen Working of NHRC?

Improve the Scope and Effectiveness:

  • Broaden the NHRC’s mandate to address emerging human rights challenges effectively. For example Artificial Intelligence, Deep Fake, Climate Change etc.

Granting Enforcement Powers:

  • Empower the NHRC with punitive powers to enforce its recommendations. This would enhance accountability and compliance.

Composition Reforms:

  • The current composition lacks diversity. Appoint members from civil society, activists, and experts to ensure a holistic perspective.

Developing an Independent Cadre:

  • The NHRC faces resource constraints. Establish an independent cadre of staff with relevant expertise in human rights issues.

Strengthening State Human Rights Commissions:

  • State Human Rights Commissions need support. Facilitate collaboration, capacity building, and knowledge sharing among state commissions.

Advocacy and Public Awareness:

  • Reactive responses may limit the impact. Engage in proactive advocacy, awareness campaigns, and education to empower citizens about their rights.

International Cooperation:

  • India can benefit from international experiences. Collaborate with international human rights bodies, learn from their practices, and adopt relevant strategies.

Question for Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 1
Try yourself:
What is the purpose of the Joint Meeting of Human Rights Bodies?
View Solution


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