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Daily Current Affairs 11.01.2023 ( We won’t pay a farthing more, says Union Carbide, Study sheds light on how blackbuck survive challenges, Bad and ugly A Governor’s departure from convention has set off unsavoury events, The beginning of India’s cultural renaissance, Decriminalising homosexuality, but no same-sex marriage, DAC gives nod to purchase indigenous defence systems, Constitution Bench to take up Section 6A of Citizenship Act for preliminary determination, Indian diaspora a ‘unique force’ in the global system: Murmu )

Daily Current Affairs 11.01.2023 ( We won’t pay a farthing more, says Union Carbide, Study sheds light on how blackbuck survive challenges, Bad and ugly A Governor’s departure from convention has set off unsavoury events, The beginning of India’s cultural renaissance, Decriminalising homosexuality, but no same-sex marriage, DAC gives nod to purchase indigenous defence systems, Constitution Bench to take up Section 6A of Citizenship Act for preliminary determination, Indian diaspora a ‘unique force’ in the global system: Murmu )

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1. We won’t pay a farthing more, says Union Carbide

Govt. walking a ‘slippery slope’ by seeking more funds for Bhopal gas leak victims over and above the $470 million paid by the company, says SC; asks why 50 crore of the relief was not disbursed

The Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) on Tuesday said it is not willing to pay a “farthing” more if a settlement with the Centre in 1989 is set aside by the Supreme Court even as a Constitution Bench asked the government why ₹50 crore of the $470 million paid by the company has still not reached the Bhopal gas leak tragedy victims after all these years.

The Centre, in a curative plea, has contended that the 1989 settlement is seriously impaired. It has sought additional funds of over ₹7,400 crore from the pesticide company. The government said there is fresh data of more suffering caused by the incident.

“My client is not willing to pay a farthing more. They say this is what they settled for, and if you [government] don’t want the settlement, let the law take its course,” senior advocate Harish Salve, for UCC, apprised the court.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, the lead judge on the five-member Bench, said the government was walking a “slippery slope” by seeking to “re-open” the settlement after over 30 years through a curative petition.

Attorney-General R. Venkataramani, appearing for the Centre, said the tragedy presented an extraordinary situation. The government was not looking to reopen the settlement but only wanted to “add” to it. “The settlement was not just,” he said.

“So why did you settle then? One of the parties to the settlement was the Union of India no less, not a weak party… Let’s say, on the other hand, a situation arises that the actual scenario is less horrific than made out to be… Can the other side [UCC] come out and say that an excess amount was paid in the settlement and they want it back? Can we permit that?” Justice Kaul asked.

2. Study sheds light on how blackbuck survive challenges

A new study conducted by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has shed light on how blackbuck in India have fared in the face of natural and human-induced challenges to their survival.

The blackbuck is found only on the Indian subcontinent. While males have corkscrew-shaped horns and black-to-dark brown coats, the females are fawn-coloured. The animals are mainly seen in three broad clusters across India that pertain to the northern, the southern, and the eastern regions.

This geographic separation as well as dense human habitation between the clusters would be expected to make it difficult for them to move from one location to another, said IISc.

Genetic profiling

According to IISc, the study conducted by Praveen Karanth, Professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), IISc, and Ananya Jana, a former Ph.D. student from CES, is among the first-of-its-kind in its scope, which involved analysing the genetic profiles of blackbuck found across the country.

Mr. Karanth and Ms. Jana, who are senior and first authors of the study, published in Conservation Genetics, collected faecal samples of blackbuck from 12 different locations spread across eight States of India.

The researchers tracked the animals on foot and in vehicles from a distance to collect the samples. In the lab, they extracted and sequenced the DNA from the faecal samples to study the genetic makeup of blackbuck, and deployed computational tools to map the geographic locations with the genetic data. The team also used simulations to trace how the three present-day clusters may have evolved from their common ancestor.

What they found was that an ancestral blackbuck population first split into two groups: the northern and the southern cluster. The eastern cluster seems to have emerged from the southern cluster.

Next, the team found that despite all odds, male blackbuck appear to disperse more than expected, thus contributing to gene flow in this species. Females, on the other hand, appear to stay largely within their native population ranges, which the researchers inferred from unique mitochondrial signatures in each population. The data also showed an increasing trend in blackbuck population numbers as compared to the recent past, IISc said.

“So, [it] looks like this species has managed to survive in a human-dominated landscape,” Mr. Karanth said.

In future studies, the researchers plan to unravel the blackbuck’s secrets to surviving in the face of human-induced threats to their landscape, by studying changes in their DNA and gut microbiome.

3. Bad and ugly A Governor’s departure from convention has set off unsavoury events

Expectations of unsavoury events tend to fulfil themselves. The address of Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi to the Legislative Assembly to open the new year’s first session yielded the sort of drama that many foresaw. Mr. Ravi has been voicing controversial political views for quite some time. His indiscreet remarks in recent days to the effect that the State should not call itself ‘Tamil Nadu’ and that its politics was “regressive” portended tension when he came to address the House. What was unfortunate about Mr. Ravi’s approach was that this baiting of the DMK regime was carried into the legislature, of which he is an integral part. Against this backdrop, Mr. Ravi chose to skip portions of the prepared text, including a reference to the “Dravidian model of governance” and words commending the law-and-order situation in the State. There have been instances of Governors deviating from the prepared texts, but unlike in other States, this evoked an immediate backlash from Chief Minister M.K. Stalin. The constitutional convention is that the President or the Governor should not depart from the text, as it is nothing but a statement of policy of the elected government. Most Chief Ministers have in the past avoided confrontation despite the occasional departure from the convention. Mr. Stalin, however, chose to hand out an immediate riposte in the very presence of the Governor through a resolution that said the House record would reflect only the prepared text, and not the one with impromptu additions or deletions made during delivery by the Governor.

As soon as he realised the import of Mr. Stalin’s speech in Tamil, Mr. Ravi walked out, apparently treating the move to adopt the resolution as an affront. The Governor need not have reacted in such a manner, as there is no reason why a deviation from convention on the Governor’s part should not be met with an immediate response that was also a deviation from convention. The events highlight the consequences of a confrontationist attitude on the part of constitutional functionaries. Future confrontations can be avoided if the Governor gives up his penchant for making politically loaded remarks and is heedful of the State’s political sensibilities. In the longer term, the role of the Governor in the country’s constitutional scheme needs a thorough overhaul, so that incumbents in Raj Bhavan give up their sense of overlordship and focus on their core constitutional functions such as granting assent to Bills.

4. The beginning of India’s cultural renaissance

The month-long Kashi Tamil Sangamam, which showcased Tamil culture, heralded a new era where ancient Indian traditions intermingle with one another and are revitalised with the help of modern practices so that they contribute to cultural and economic growth. It gave a rich cultural context to India’s mission to become a developed country by 2047. The event carried forward our tradition of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat.

Ancient links

Kashi, one of the oldest living cities of the world, and Tamil Nadu, where people proudly speak the world’s oldest language, are towering pillars of ancient Indian civilisation. Both have rich, old traditions of arts, music, craftsmanship, philosophy, spirituality and literature. Yet, for decades after independence, few people in north India knew about the Tamil saints who lived in Kashi and intensified its spiritual aura, or the tradition of taking holy Ganga jal (water) to the Rameshwaram temple, or the Kashi Yatra ritual in some Tamil weddings. Likewise, many in Tamil Nadu were not fully familiar with the ancient links between the two cultures.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a different approach and launched the Kashi Tamil Sangamam. He rightly said that this cultural intermingling was as holy as the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna rivers.

The event saw people from all walks of life from Tamil Nadu visiting Kashi. They experienced the city’s traditions and its iconic landmarks such as the Kashi Vishwanath temple. They approached the temple through the new corridor, which has transformed and beautified the sacred area in line with the vision of Mr. Modi, who represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha.

The Prime Minister’s initiative to build the landmark Kashi Vishwanath corridor, which connects the Jyotirling with the Ganga, embellishes traditions with a touch of modernity for the benefit of residents and visitors. Similarly, the Sangamam created a unique platform to rediscover and integrate our heritage and ancient knowledge with modern thought, philosophy, technology and craftsmanship. This creates a new body of knowledge and fosters innovations that will help our artisans, weavers, entrepreneurs and traders. For instance, Varanasi is well known for Banarasi silk saris, and Kancheepuram, for its shimmering silk saris. Weavers and entrepreneurs from both regions have a lot to gain from interacting with each other and from their exposure to modern practices of branding, quality control, marketing, product consistency, the use of modern machinery and value addition.

The focus on textiles

The government organised a ‘textiles conclave’ during the Sangamam. Several eminent personalities of different segments of the textile industry from Tamil Nadu and Kashi shared their experiences and exchanged ideas at a session on Amrit Kaal Vision 2047. They were excited and confident about the government’s vision of raising textiles exports to $100 billion by 2030 and creating new opportunities in the sector.

The textiles sector, which has great job-creating potential, is a key part of our mission to become a developed country by 2047. India’s textiles market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12-13% to nearly $2 trillion by 2047, while exports from the sector are expected to grow at double digits. Mr. Modi’s 5F formula (farm, fibre, fabric, fashion, foreign) will accelerate growth in the sector and transform the lives of farmers and weavers. Kashi and Tamil Nadu have a key role to play to achieve this vision. The government is also encouraging technical textiles, which have phenomenal potential. These products include functional textiles that are used in vehicles, protective clothing, bulletproof vests and construction. Man-made fibre, also an area of focus, has great potential for growth and exports.

The Sangamam was in step with the entire spectrum of this government’s policies. These policies accord top priority to accelerating development with a focus on welfare of the poorest of the poor, love for Indian culture, and promoting local industries and handicrafts.

We are strongly promoting the One District One Product scheme that will take Indian products to the world market. Mr. Modi is a brand ambassador for these products and gifts them to world leaders. Apart from saris, the textiles conclave also dwelled on wooden toys. Traditional wooden toys of Varanasi are getting more export enquiries and are being showcased in international business exhibitions.

Traditional products will also get a big boost from other government initiatives such as the Open Network for Digital Commerce and the Government e-Marketplace.

Not limited to Tamil Nadu and Kashi

The Sangamam ended on December 16. About 2 lakh people visited the campus of the Banaras Hindu University which hosted cultural shows and a popular exhibition that highlighted Tamil products and cuisine. The Sangamam has ignited a new cultural zeal in India and whetted the country’s appetite for more. The textiles sector is planning a similar event in Tamil Nadu.

More importantly, as Home Minister Amit Shah said, the Sangamam is the beginning of India’s cultural renaissance that is not limited to the bonding of Tamil Nadu and Kashi. It will extend to all cultures of this great country.

5. Decriminalising homosexuality, but no same-sex marriage

Even though homosexuality is legal in many countries, the idea of same-sex marriage is still anathema to them

On Sunday, over 2,000 members and supporters of the LGBTQ community took to the streets of New Delhi to press for equal marriage rights, after the Supreme Court on Friday transferred to itself petitions pending in various High Courts seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

The members returned after a three-year break forced by COVID-19. This time their hopes have been raised by the Supreme Court’s move. “We need to really focus on those rights like inheriting properties together (and) opening bank accounts. Marriage is one big thing because once marriage comes into play then all these other aspects of the rights will be met,” Ajay Chauhan, a participant in Sunday’s march, told AFP.

The Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality in 2018 and held that the criminalisation of sexual relationships between adults of the same sex was unconstitutional. However, the Indian government has resisted previous attempts to formally recognise same-sex relationships in cases heard in lower courts. In 2021, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta told the Delhi High Court that according to law, marriage was permissible between a “biological man” and a “biological woman”. The Centre also argued against the urgency of the pleas by saying nobody was “dying” in the absence of a marriage certificate.

The Centre’s position on the issue is not unique given that currently, more than 6.77 billion people around the world are living in countries where same-sex marriage is not legal, while only 1.21 billion are living in nations where it is legal. Until 2000, the year in which the Netherlands made same-sex marriage legal, in no country was it allowed. Chart 1 shows the progress since the year.

A favourable ruling by the Supreme Court in March could pave way for the nation of 1.4 billion people to become the second jurisdiction in Asia to recognise same-sex marriage after Taiwan. As shown in chart 3, only 32 countries have legalised same-sex marriage. While it is not legal in 10 countries, same-sex couples do enjoy certain rights there, whereas, in the rest of the 91, it is currently illegal. Map 2 depicts the geographical spread of same-sex marriage recognition as of 2022. While most of the countries in Europe, Oceania, North and South America have legalised same-sex marriage or have given restricted rights to such couples, the nations which did the same in Asia and Africa were few and far between.

Notably, in many of these Asian and African nations, homosexuality stopped being considered a criminal offence in recent decades. However, legal status has not been given to same-sex marriages.

Three days before the Delhi Queer Pride march, opponents to same-sex marriage — including right-wing Hindu groups — staged a small demonstration outside the Supreme Court. In India, acceptance of same-sex relationships and marriages have generally been low among the public. In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center across 34 countries between May 13 and October 2, 2019, only 37% of respondents from India said that homosexuality should be accepted by society. In 23 of the 34 countries, a higher share of respondents said that it should be accepted, as shown in chart 4.

Notably, over 25% of the respondents in India, refused to answer the question or said they did not know the answer — the second-highest share among the 34 nations surveyed. This shows reluctance to offer an opinion on the subject, which is considered a taboo by many in India.

6. DAC gives nod to purchase indigenous defence systems

Acceptance of Necessity given for three capital acquisition proposals amounting to 4,276 crore; these include helicopter-launched Nag missiles and BrahMos cruise missile launchers for ships

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for three capital acquisition proposals amounting to ₹4,276 crore.

These include the helicopter-launched Nag (HELINA) anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), very short-range air defence systems (VSHORAD), BrahMos cruise missile launchers, and fire control systems (FCS) for naval ships. All three are indigenous design and development projects.

“The DAC accorded AoN for procurement of HELINA ATGMs, launchers and associated support equipment which will be integrated to the advanced light helicopter (ALH). This missile is an essential part of weaponisation of ALH for countering enemy threat,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The HELINA and Dhruvastra being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are third-generation lock-on-before-launch fire-and-forget ATGMs meant for the indigenous ALH and the light combat helicopter. HELINA is the Army variant and Dhruvastra is the Air Force variant.

Focus on air defence

The DAC also accorded AoN for procurement of the VSHORAD (IR Homing) missile system under design and development by the DRDO.

“In view of the recent developments along the northern borders, there is a need to focus on effective air defence weapon systems which are man portable and can be deployed quickly in rugged terrain and maritime domain,” the Ministry said, adding procurement of VSHORAD, as a robust and quickly deployable system, will strengthen the capabilities.

The Army has a major requirement for VSHORAD and several attempts to import the systems have not materialised. A major deal with Russia, which was shortlisted in a bidding, has been stuck for several years and is on the verge of cancellation.

Further, the DAC also granted approval for procurement of BrahMos launcher and FCS for the Shivalik class of ships and next-generation missile vessels for the Navy.

7. Constitution Bench to take up Section 6A of Citizenship Act for preliminary determination

A Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud on Tuesday said it will first take up for preliminary determination whether Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 suffers from any “constitutional infirmity”.

Section 6A was a special provision inserted into the 1955 Act in furtherance of a Memorandum of Settlement called the ‘Assam Accord’ signed on August 15, 1985 by the then Rajiv Gandhi government with the leaders of the Assam Movement to preserve and protect the Assamese culture, heritage and linguistic and social identity.

The Accord came at the end of a six-year agitation by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) to identify and deport undocumented immigrants, mostly from neighbouring Bangladesh, from the State.

During the hearing, Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta said that Section 6A was valid. It was enacted as part of a statute, that is, the 1955 Act.

The petitions challenging the provision, filed after nearly 40 years since the enactment of Section 6A, should not be entertained.

Under Section 6A, foreigners who had entered Assam before January 1, 1966, and been “ordinarily resident” in the State, would have all the rights and obligations of Indian citizens. Those who had entered the State between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 would have the same rights and obligations except that they would not be able to vote for 10 years.

‘Discriminatory nature’

Petitions were filed challenging the “discriminatory” nature of Section 6A in granting citizenship to immigrants, illegal ones at that. The petitioners, including Assam Public Works and others, argued that the special provision was in violation of Article 6 of the Constitution, which fixed the cut-off date for granting citizenship to immigrants at July 19, 1948.

On December 2014, the Supreme Court had framed 13 questions covering various issues raised against the constitutionality of Section 6A.

In 2015, a three-judge Bench of the court had referred the case to a Constitution Bench.

All these years, the ‘Section 6A’ case had waited out even as the Supreme Court monitored the preparation and publication of the final Assam NRC list in August 2019, which saw the exclusion of over 19 lakh people.

The Bench listed the case for hearing from February 14, giving time to the parties to prepare and circulate the records before the hearing.

8. Indian diaspora a ‘unique force’ in the global system: Murmu

President Droupadi Murmu on Tuesday praised the contribution of the Indian diaspora and described it as a “unique force” in the world. Addressing the valedictory session of a Pravasi Bharatiya Divas convention in Indore, Ms. Murmu said the Indian diaspora would help in the inclusive development of the country.

“The Indian diaspora today has become an important and unique force in the global system. It has grown into an energetic and confident community in every region,” President Murmu said.

Apart from speaking on the occasion, Ms. Murmu met with the President of Suriname, Chandrikapersad Santokhi, and the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Mohamed Irfaan Ali.

“She was happy to note that the Indian community in Suriname has maintained its cultural identity even after 150 years of leaving India,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on the meeting between President Murmu and President Santokhi.

Highlighted the discovery of oil and gas in Guyana, Ms. Murmu said, “There is immense scope of cooperation and collaboration between Guyana and India in this area.”

The Valedictory Session of the 17th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was also addressed by S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister.

Indian professionals from several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain, participated in the convention that took place between January 8 and 10.

The concluding day also saw the conferring of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards on 27 Indian-origin persons.

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