- CURRENT AFFAIRS – 18/10/2023
CURRENT AFFAIRS – 18/10/2023
SC declines to legalise same-sex marriage
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
In a recent ruling by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, it was held that only the legislature has the authority to recognize or regulate queer marriages.
- The judges on the Bench did not reach a consensus on providing legally recognized “civil union” status for long-standing relationships between queer couples.
- The Bench’s Key Findings:
- The Constitution Bench concluded that the recognition and regulation of queer marriages should be the exclusive domain of the legislature.
- They argued that there is no inherent, fundamental, or unqualified right to marry, and, therefore, the judiciary should not intervene in this matter.
- Despite unanimous agreement on the discrimination faced by same-sex couples, the Bench failed to reach a consensus on granting legally recognized “civil union” status to long-standing relationships between queer couples.
- Chief Justice Chandrachud’s Minority View:
- Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay KishanKaul formed the minority opinion.
- Chief Justice Chandrachud argued that queer individuals have a fundamental right to form relationships, and the state should provide legal recognition for such unions.
- He emphasized that the right to form a union is an integral part of the fundamental right to choose a partner and lead a dignified life.
- He stressed that equality should not be denied to same-sex couples based on their sexual orientation and that queerness is a natural phenomenon.
- Justice Kaul’s Perspective:
- Justice Kaul, in agreement with Chief Justice Chandrachud, viewed legal recognition of same-sex relationships as a step toward “marriage equality.”
- He highlighted that legal recognition promotes social acceptance, enhancing queer participation in public spaces.
- Justice Kaul suggested the creation of a governance structure to realize the right to enter into a union, whether it is termed as marriage or a union.
- He recommended that a high-powered committee be constituted by the Centre to define the scope of benefits available to such unions.
- Majority Opinion – Justices Bhat and Kohli:
- Justices SR Bhat and HimaKohli, along with Justice PS Narasimha, formed the majority judgment of the Bench.
- They asserted that any entitlement to legal recognition of the right to a union, similar to marriage or civil union, can only be achieved through enacted law.
- They argued that the court cannot grant legal status to such relationships.
- They acknowledged the right of queer and LGBTQ+ couples to form unions based on mental, emotional, or sexual connections, stemming from the right to privacy, choice, and autonomy.
- However, they maintained that this right does not extend to claiming legal status for the union or relationship.
- The majority opinion argued that the right to a civil union or an abiding cohabitational relationship conferring legally enforceable status could not be accommodated within the Fundamental Rights chapter of the Constitution.
- Polycentric Decisions:
- The majority held that the creation of new social institutions like same-sex marriage or civil unions and the reordering of societal relationships were “polycentric decisions” that could not be mandated by a single judicial decree.
- Impact on Adoption Rights:
- The majority of judges expressed disapproval of same-sex couples’ right to adopt children.
- However, they concurred with the minority’s view that there is no prohibition on transgender individuals entering into heterosexual marriages.
- The judges unanimously agreed that same-sex couples have the right to cohabit and be free from coercion and threats, offering some protection to these relationships.
However, the LGBTQIA+ community may find hope in the Court’s direction that the government should establish a committee to determine the rights and entitlements of queer couples.
What are the fundamental rights that are under discussion?
When discussing the legalization of queer unions and the recognition of the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, several fundamental rights are often considered and debated.
- These fundamental rights include:
- Right to Equality (Article 14):
- This fundamental right ensures that all individuals are equal before the law and prohibits discrimination on various grounds, including sex, gender, and sexual orientation.
- It is central to the argument for recognizing same-sex unions on an equal footing with heterosexual marriages.
- Right to Life and Personal Liberty (Article 21):
- Article 21 includes the right to life with dignity.
- This right has been broadly interpreted by the courts to encompass the right to privacy, dignity, and personal autonomy, which are fundamental to the argument for legalizing queer unions.
- Right to Privacy:
- The right to privacy is considered an integral part of the right to life and personal liberty.
- It is a critical component of LGBTQ+ rights, particularly in cases related to same-sex relationships.
- Right to Freedom of Expression (Article 19):
- This right protects the freedom to express one’s identity, including one’s sexual orientation.
- It is often invoked to advocate for the acceptance and protection of LGBTQ+ individuals and their relationships.
- Right to Non-Discrimination (Article 15):
- Article 15 prohibits discrimination on various grounds, including sex, gender, and sexual orientation.
- This right is relevant when arguing that the law should not discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals in matters of marriage and civil unions.
- Right to Marry and Family Life:
- While not explicitly stated in the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court has recognized the right to marry and the right to a family life as integral to the right to life and personal liberty (Article 21).
- These rights are central to the debate on legalizing same-sex marriages.
- Right to Equality (Article 14):
Centralized procurement as a powerful health idea
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
There is a parallel between the centralized procurement model used by fast-food giant McDonald’s and the potential benefits of adopting a similar approach in the healthcare sector, particularly in India.
- The focus is on the advantages of centralization in terms of both price efficiency and quality.
- Challenges in Procurement:
- Negotiating with multiple suppliers individually can lead to price inefficiencies. Centralized procurement, as in the case of McDonald’s, can lead to better prices due to larger bulk purchases.
- Individual franchisees might have differing standards for quality, which could lead to variations in the product.
- In healthcare, maintaining consistent quality in drug procurement is crucial.
- Applicability to Healthcare:
- It is suggested that the principles of centralized procurement, which have been proven effective in other sectors, can be applied to healthcare, particularly in drug procurement.
- The questions remains is why the central government in India has been reluctant to embrace this model, despite the clear advantages it offers?
- Benefits of Centralized Drug Procurement:
- Cost Savings:
- A recent paper on the National Cancer Grid in India demonstrated significant cost savings through pooled procurement of drugs.
- Savings ranged from 23% to 99% for 40 drugs, amounting to ₹13.2 billion.
- Uniform Contracts:
- Group negotiations and uniform contracts among hospitals associated with the National Cancer Grid led to substantial savings, underscoring the advantages of group procurement.
- Applicability beyond Cancer:
- The study suggests that this approach can be applied to other healthcare systems beyond cancer treatment.
- Inconsistent Government Approach:
- The article highlights inconsistencies in how the central government covers different categories of healthcare beneficiaries under schemes like the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS), Pradhan Mantri Jan ArogyaYojna (PMJAY), and Employees’ State Insurance Scheme (ESI).
- Benchmark Pricing:
- To ensure competitive pricing, it is suggested in using public sector units (PSUs) as benchmark prices, following the example of male contraceptive procurement.
- This practice creates competition and reduces the risk of price collusion among private suppliers.
- Quality Assurance:
- Buyers’ clubs, in addition to cost savings, can ensure better drug quality by conducting independent testing rather than relying solely on drug regulators.
- There is a clear evidence that centralized or pooled procurement has the potential to reduce costs, optimize fund allocation in healthcare, and ensure consistent availability of life-saving drugs.
- It is a concept backed by both theory and empirical evidence, and India should implement it on a larger scale.
- Cost Savings:
How synergistic barriers areaffecting progress on SDGs?
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
World leaders gathered at the SDG Summit in New York in September 2023 to discuss the progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reaffirmed their commitment to eradicate poverty, end hunger, and address global challenges.
- Leaders acknowledged that the world is currently on track to achieve only 15% of the 169 targets that comprise the 17 SDGs, with some even regressing.
- These challenges prompted leaders to commit to an annual SDG stimulus of $500 billion and explore effective debt relief for the world’s poorest nations.
- Lack of Confidence in Future Progress:
- While the renewed commitment is welcomed, there is skepticism about achieving greater progress in the second half of the commitment period.
- A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimated the investment gap for SDGs in developing countries to exceed $4 trillion, a 70% increase from 2014 estimates.
- The energy transition alone requires nearly $2 trillion of this funding, making the SDGs seem unattainable.
- Indivisibility and Integration of SDGs:
- The Agenda 2030 document underlining the SDGs recognizes their indivisible and integrated nature.
- Academic literature has examined the “synergies” and “trade-offs” inherent in pursuing specific SDGs.
- Five Types of (Dis)Synergies:
- A 2019 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences identified five types of (dis)synergies along the value chain of an SDG intervention.
- These include the following:
- resource allocation,
- enabling environments,
- cost-effectiveness, and
- saturation limits.
- The paper was based on pilot studies in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, and Malawi.
- Similarly, A U.N. Expert Group Report titled ‘Synergy Solutions for a World in Crisis: Tackling Climate and SDG Action Together’ highlights barriers to synergistic action in the areas of knowledge, politics, institutions, and economics.
- Barriers to Small-Scale Applications:
- Ambitious renewable energy targets in India became a barrier for small-scale applications due to a misalignment between targets in gigawatts and the needs of primary health centers in kilowatts.
- This resulted in neglecting essential energization for health facilities, despite the significant health benefits it could bring.
- Siloed operations, insufficient cross-departmental data collection, and a lack of the ability to attribute co-benefits to specific actions are significant barriers to achieving more extensive sustainable development goals (SDG) targets.
- Recognizing Interlinks and Institutional Barriers:
- Merely recognizing interlinks between SDGs is insufficient without a robust analysis of institutional barriers.
- It is crucial to assess and address these barriers in the national context to promote synergistic actions and provide transparency on opportunities and limits in SDG interventions.
- India’s Progress and Challenges:
- India has made notable progress in both climate and sustainable development goals, but challenges remain to meet all SDG targets by 2030 and the commitment to be net-zero by 2070.
- India continues to invest in high-carbon energy sources for security and supply reliability, while renewable energy expansion struggles to keep pace with increasing national energy demand.
- Investing in Clean Energy and Synergistic Impact:
- Investing in clean energy options for urban transport can have a significant synergistic impact on reducing air pollution and improving human health.
- This approach can enhance the attractiveness of such interventions.
- India can mandate its entities involved in SDG reporting to identify and develop reporting frameworks that highlight the value created by specific SDG interventions.
- Adapting existing literature to national and local contexts can serve as a useful starting point for this effort.
About Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of global goals established by the United Nations (UN) to address a wide range of social, economic, and environmental challenges facing the world.
- They are designed to promote a more sustainable and equitable future for all.
- The SDGs were adopted by all UN Member States in September 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
- There are 17 SDGs, each consisting of specific targets and indicators to measure progress.
- These SDGs provide a framework for countries, organizations, and individuals to work together to tackle global challenges and build a more sustainable and equitable world by 2030.
- The goals are interconnected, and progress in one goal can positively impact others.
- Monitoring and reporting on the SDGs’ progress are essential to track global efforts and make necessary adjustments to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
PM Modi “directs” ISRO to land man on moon by 2040
(General Studies- Paper III)
Source : TH
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has outlined ambitious space goals for India’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- These goals include setting up an indigenous space station called the “BharatiyaAntariksha Station” by 2035 and landing an Indian on the moon by 2040.
- The Prime Minister’s directives come after a review of preparations for the Gaganyaan mission, India’s first manned mission to space, scheduled for 2025.
- The Department of Space (DoS) will develop this roadmap, which includes a series of Chandrayaan missions, the creation of a new generation launch vehicle, construction of a new launch pad, and the establishment of human-centric laboratories and associated technologies.
- The PM also urged Indian scientists to work on interplanetary missions, which could involve sending a space vehicle to orbit Venus and another to land on Mars.
- Challenges and Costs
- Experts have noted that these ambitious goals pose significant financial and technical challenges.
- Manned moon missions and space stations require substantial and sustained investments, potentially involving contributions from the private sector.
- The cost of extensive testing, necessary for space missions’ safety, can be high, and budget considerations will be crucial in determining the feasibility of the proposed timelines.
- International Context
- The International Space Station (ISS), jointly maintained by several countries, is set to be decommissioned by 2030.
- China’s Tiangong is currently the only other operational space station.
- India’s alignment with the United States’ Artemis Accords may open the possibility of sending an Indian astronaut to the ISS in 2024.
About International Space Station (ISS)
The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station and orbital laboratory that serves as a unique platform for scientific research and international cooperation in space exploration.
- The ISS is a joint project involving space agencies from multiple countries.
- The major partners in the ISS program include NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
- The station represents one of the most extensive and successful international collaborations in the history of space exploration.
- Modular Structure:
- The ISS is modular in design, consisting of multiple interconnected modules and components.
- These modules serve various purposes, including living quarters for astronauts, laboratories for scientific research, and storage areas.
- The station’s modular structure allows for the flexibility to add new components as technology advances.
- International Crew:
- The ISS continuously hosts a rotating crew of astronauts and cosmonauts from different countries.
- These crew members live and work on the station for extended periods, conducting scientific experiments, technology demonstrations, and maintaining station systems. Crews typically stay on the station for several months.
- Orbit and Altitude:
- The ISS orbits the Earth at an average altitude of approximately 420 kilometers (260 miles).
- It travels at an average speed of about 28,000 kilometers per hour (17,500 miles per hour), completing an orbit around the Earth roughly every 90 minutes.
- Research and Experiments:
- The primary mission of the ISS is to conduct scientific research and experiments in a microgravity environment.
- Researchers from various fields, including biology, physics, astronomy, and Earth sciences, use the station to study the effects of long-term space travel on the human body, conduct experiments in materials science, and perform Earth observations.
- Space Agencies:
- Each partner space agency is responsible for various segments of the ISS.
- For example, NASA oversees the U.S. portion of the station, which includes modules like Destiny and the Kibo laboratory.
- Roscosmos manages the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS), which includes modules like Zvezda and the Poisk module.
- Support for Deep Space Exploration:
- The ISS serves as a testbed for technologies and systems that will be crucial for future deep space exploration missions.
- It helps scientists and engineers understand the challenges of long-duration space travel and serves as a platform for research on life support systems, radiation protection, and human health in space.
About China’s Tiangong
Chinese space station is known as Tiangong, which translates to “Heavenly Palace” in English.
- China’s Tiangong space station is being constructed in multiple phases.
- The core module, named “Tianhe” or “Harmony of the Heavens,” serves as the central living and working space.
- Additional laboratory modules and cargo spacecraft will be added in subsequent phases.
India-Sri Lanka ferry service restarted after 40 yrs
(General Studies- Paper II, Page 16)
Source : The Indian Express
India and Sri Lanka have revitalized an age-old sea route with the launch of a passenger ferry service from Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu to Kankesanthurai in Jaffna, Northern Sri Lanka.
- The initiative aims to enhance bilateral ties, boost tourism, and strengthen people-to-people relations while benefiting local traders on both sides.
- The New Ferry Service
- The newly inaugurated ferry service, operated by a High-Speed Craft named ‘Cheriyapani,’ connects the two nations.
- A one-way ticket for this service costs approximately Rs 7,670, with a baggage allowance of up to 40 kg per passenger.
- The journey departs from Nagapattinam at 7 am and reaches Kankesanthurai by 11 am.
- The return journey starts at 1.30 pm, arriving in Nagapattinam by 5.30 pm.
- Revisiting Maritime Linkages
- India and Sri Lanka share a rich maritime history.
- The Indo-Ceylon Express, known as Boat Mail, ran between Chennai and Colombo through the Thoothukudi port from the early 1900s until 1982.
- Unfortunately, the civil war in Sri Lanka led to the suspension of these services.
- One popular route before the war was from Dhanushkodi to Talaimannar, with passengers traveling from Chennai to Dhanushkodi by train from Chennai’s Egmore railway station and then transferring to a coal-powered steam ferry for the two-hour journey to Talaimannar.
- Efforts to Revive Ferry Services
- The revival of ferry services has been in discussion for some time, particularly after the civil war ended in 2009.
- In 2011, an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) on passenger sea transportation was signed, leading to the launch of a similar service.
- However, the initial service did not last more than six months due to a poor response.
- Attempts were also made to establish services from Rameswaram to Talaimannar and Karaikal to Kankesanthurai.
- Various challenges have hampered the materialization of these proposals.
- Potential Impact of the New Ferry Service:
- Boosts religious tourism:
- The ferry service is expected to amplify religious tourism in coastal regions of India and Sri Lanka.
- Indian pilgrim centers, such as Nagapattinam, Nagore, Velankanni, Thirunallar, and temple towns like Thanjavur, Madurai, and Tiruchi, will likely see an increase in Sri Lankan tourists visiting religious sites.
- Enhances regional commerce:
- In addition to religious tourism, the service is likely to stimulate regional commerce and trade.
- Infrastructure and Planning:
- The Tamil Nadu state government is focusing on infrastructural development to accommodate the expected influx of travelers.
- Cooperation with various Union government departments, including Customs, External Affairs, Shipping, and Immigration, is being ensured to provide passengers with a smooth experience.
- The Nagapattinam port, under the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board, received an upgrade with funds amounting to Rs 8 crore from the Union Ministry of External Affairs.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized that the new service not only brings cities closer but also strengthens connectivity between India and Sri Lanka and brings their people and hearts closer.
- Initial Challenges:
- The successful operation of the ferry service is crucial.
- Initially, the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) planned to run services every day for ten days but has rescheduled it to operate thrice a week.
- The onset of the northeast monsoon is one reason cited for the change.
- High ticket fares, approximately Rs 7,670, and poor ticketing systems have been identified as challenges.
- Some officials suggest reducing ticket rates and making bookings available on popular travel sites to ensure the service’s success.
- Boosts religious tourism:
Rupee at all-time low against dollar
(General Studies- Paper III)
Source : The Indian Express
Recently, the Indian rupee ended at its lifetime closing low of 83.28 against the US dollar.
- The weakening of the Indian rupee was attributed to several factors, including a surge in crude oil prices and the vulnerability of other Asian currencies, which placed pressure on the currency.
- Factors Influencing Rupee’s Performance:
- Crude Oil Prices:
- Rising crude oil prices have contributed to the rupee’s depreciation.
- Oil prices increased more than 5% on Friday due to growing concerns about escalating geopolitical tensions in the Middle East.
- Dollar Index:
- The dollar index remained steady at 106.5, influencing global currency movements.
- Asian currencies, including the Indian rupee, weakened.
- Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs):
- Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) withdrew Rs 11,206 crore from the cash market in October, adding to the rupee’s pressures.
- RBI Interventions:
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been actively intervening in currency markets to prevent excessive depreciation.
- It is likely to continue selling US dollars to support the rupee.
- Foreign Exchange Reserves:
- India’s foreign exchange reserves have decreased by $14.154 billion in nearly a month due to valuation losses and RBI interventions.
- As of October 6, foreign exchange reserves stood at $584.742 billion, the lowest in over five months, compared to $598.897 billion on September 1.
- USD-Rupee Range:
- Currency traders expect that the pair may hit new highs, with the exchange rate range expanding to 83.00 to 83.50 on the spot.
- Crude Oil Prices:
What is ‘Dollar Index’?
- The “Dollar Index” is a measure of the value of the United States dollar relative to a basket of other major world currencies.
- It provides a weighted average of the dollar’s exchange rates with a selection of currencies, with the euro having the largest weight.
- The index is used to assess the overall strength or weakness of the US dollar in international financial markets.
- A rising Dollar Index suggests the dollar is strengthening against other currencies, while a falling index indicates the dollar is weakening.
Understanding RBI Interventions:
The RBI may intervene in the foreign exchange (Forex) market by buying or selling Indian rupees in exchange for other currencies, primarily the US dollar.
- Currency Purchases:
- The RBI can buy Indian rupees in the Forex market, which increases the demand for the rupee and can help support or strengthen its value.
- Currency Sales:
- Conversely, the RBI can sell Indian rupees in the Forex market, increasing the supply of rupees and potentially putting downward pressure on its value.
- The goal of such intervention is to stabilize the currency’s exchange rate, prevent excessive volatility, and avoid abrupt depreciation, which can have adverse effects on the Indian economy.