CURRENT AFFAIRS – 23/11/2023
Rare metal found in Sutlej sands
(General Studies- Paper III)
Source : The Indian Express
Tantalum, a rare metal with the atomic number 73, was discovered by Swedish chemist Anders GustafEkenberg in 1802 in minerals obtained from Ytterby, Sweden.
- Properties of Tantalum:
- Tantalum is grey, heavy, and very hard, possessing high corrosion resistance.
- When exposed to air, it forms an oxide layer that is challenging to remove, even in strong acid environments.
- Pure tantalum is ductile, allowing it to be stretched into a thin wire without breaking.
- It is almost completely immune to chemical attack at temperatures below 150°C and is attacked only by specific acids, such as hydrofluoric acid.
- Tantalum has an extremely high melting point, surpassed only by tungsten and rhenium.
- Initially, it was believed that Ekenberg had found a different form of niobium, a chemically similar element.
- The confusion was resolved in 1866 when Swiss chemist Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac established tantalum and niobium as distinct elements.
- Significance for Punjab and India:
- The discovery of tantalum in Punjab is deemed significant not only for the state but also for India.
- Tantalum is widely used in electronics and semiconductors, making it a valuable resource for technological applications.
- Tantalum’s significance lies in its widespread use in electronics and semiconductors due to its unique properties such as high corrosion resistance, ductility, and a very high melting point.
- The discovery in Punjab was made by a team led by Dr.Resmi Sebastian, an assistant professor in the institute’s Civil Engineering Department.
- The presence of tantalum in the region suggests potential economic opportunities, given its importance in technological industries.
- The metal’s corrosion resistance and other properties make it a valuable material for various applications in modern technology.
- Tantalum is named after the Greek mythological figure Tantalus, a rich and wicked king.
- Tantalus, known for his punishment by Zeus, is forever tormented in the underworld, unable to drink water or pick fruit despite their proximity.
- The name “tantalum” was chosen due to the metal’s insolubility in acids.
- Its inability to react with acids aligns with Tantalus’ inability to partake in the water and fruit in his punishment.
- Tantalum’s Uses:
- Electronic Sector:
- Tantalum is extensively used in the electronics sector.
- Capacitors made from tantalum have the advantage of storing more electricity in smaller sizes with minimal leakage.
- Ideal for portable electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and digital cameras.
- Tantalum, with its high melting point, is used as a substitute for platinum, a more expensive metal.
- Industrial Applications:
- Used in the manufacturing of components for chemical plants, nuclear power plants, airplanes, and missiles.
- Medical Applications:
- Tantalum does not react with bodily fluids, making it suitable for medical purposes.
- Used in surgical equipment and implants, including artificial joints.
- Tantalum carbide (TaC) combined with graphite forms one of the hardest known materials.
- Utilized on the cutting edges of high-speed machine tools.
- Electronic Sector:
- Tantalum’s unique properties, including high corrosion resistance, high melting point, and biocompatibility, contribute to its diverse range of applications in various industries, from electronics to medicine and manufacturing.
Listen to the people, not the numbers
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
The Indian economy faces an incomes problem rather than a growth problem.
- While overall GDP growth is good, incomes for a significant portion of the population are not growing sustainably.
- There is a growing demand for job reservations for economically weaker sections, irrespective of caste or religion.
- Job Growth Debate in India:
- Economists are debating whether the economy is creating enough jobs, questioning the credibility of government data.
- There are claims that the issue of insufficient job growth is attributed to the government’s policies.
- S. Economy Dissatisfaction:
- Despite positive economic indicators in the U.S., a majority of citizens express dissatisfaction.
- Worker dissatisfaction revolves around a desire for fair wages, job security, and opposition to excessive CEO compensation.
- Issues with India’s Economic Transition:
- India’s attempt to transition directly from agriculture to services, especially IT, is seen as a flawed shortcut.
- High-end services have limited capacity to absorb the large workforce, especially from rural areas with lower educational levels.
- The problem lies in the nature of jobs available—insufficient “good” jobs that offer fair pay, job security, and opportunities for skill development.
- Labour-intensive manufacturing, services, and construction are seen as crucial for providing the initial step for job seekers.
- Global Economic Turning Point:
- The world is at a turning point requiring new economic ideas for environmental sustainability and social harmony.
- New concepts of work, enterprise design, and economic relationships are necessary.
- The focus on green, organic, and local initiatives is expected to shift emphasis from global supply chains to local economic webs.
- There is a need for redefining the measurement of economic success beyond traditional metrics like GDP and employment.
- New concepts of “work,” redesigned enterprises, and reevaluation of economic relationships are advocated.
- Future Economic Trends:
- The drive for environmental sustainability may lead to a preference for small enterprises over large ones.
- “Economies of scope” rather than “economies of scale” are predicted to determine enterprise viability.
- Denser, local economic networks are expected to replace long, global supply chains, promoting a more localized and sustainable economic model.
- The focus is shifting from traditional corporate enterprises designed for economic efficiency to genuine “social” enterprises.
- Recognition of the need to value caregiving work and caregivers more than current economic perspectives acknowledge.
- Caregivers Plucked from Natural Social Enterprises:
- Caregivers, often women, are taken out of natural social enterprises like families to contribute to formal economic enterprises for monetary value creation.
- Economic measurements, particularly women’s participation in the labour force, tend to ignore the informal caregiving roles outside formal employment.
- Economic paradigms undervalue the informal caregiving done by women in their families, communities, or as domestic caregivers in others’ homes, especially when not financially compensated.
- The prevalent economic theory distorts social organizations, particularly families, to align with the needs of formal economic organizations such as corporations.
- This results in a growing money-measured economy (GDP) but a reduction in the care humans provide to each other.
- Reforming Economic Measurements:
- Calls for a reformation of economic measurements, moving away from 20th-century concepts of growth.
- The need to reflect on forms of work and enterprises that society wants to promote in the future.
- Advocates for a paradigm shift in policymaking, starting with listening to marginalized voices.
- Emphasizes the importance of hearing from workers, small-holding farmers, small entrepreneurs, and women who are often overlooked in the current economic paradigm.
- Challenges the dominance of experts in economics, large financial institutions, and big corporations in decision-making.Encourages policymakers to rely less on historical statistics and more on understanding the concerns and needs of the people for effective policy formulation.
Glimmer of hope: on the Israel-Hamas deal
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
The Israel-Hamas deal aims to provide humanitarian relief to the 2.3 million people in the Gaza Strip who have endured significant hardship since October 7.
- Mediated by Qatar, the deal involves Hamas releasing 50 civilian hostages, and Israel releasing 150 Palestinian prisoners.
- Both sides agree to a four-day halt in fighting, with the potential for extension if more hostages are released.
- Background of Hostage Situation:
- Hamas captured around 240 hostages during a cross-border attack on October 7, resulting in at least 1,200 casualties.
- Israel’s counterattack promised to eliminate security threats from Gaza, leading to indirect talks with Hamas to free hostages.
- Calls for a Lasting Ceasefire:
- Immediate relief for the people of Gaza is sought in the form of a lasting ceasefire.
- Initially, Israel had refused talks with Hamas but engaged in negotiations, reflecting a potential shift in approach.
- Israel’s response to Hamas has been described as vengeful, with statements from ministers including nuclear threats and welcoming epidemics in southern Gaza.
- Questions are raised about the effectiveness of Israel’s military strategy, especially considering the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
- Need for Ceasefire Extension:
- The deal signifies a willingness from both sides to engage in dialogue despite the intense propaganda and ongoing conflict.
- There is a call to build on the momentum generated by the deal and extend the pause in fighting to a comprehensive ceasefire.
- The aim is to release all hostages, provide lasting relief to Palestinians, and alleviate tensions in West Asia.
Reporting animal cruelty makes children safer
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
In 2007, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development conducted a comprehensive study on child abuse in India.
- Findings revealed alarming rates, with two-thirds of children experiencing physical abuse, over half facing sexual abuse, and every second child reporting emotional abuse.
- Contributing Factors to Child Abuse:
- Various factors contribute to child abuse in India, including family structure, ineffective law implementation, poverty, illiteracy, and cultural factors.
- Despite the troubling statistics, these contributing factors often go unaddressed.
- Overlooked Link: Animal Cruelty and Child Abuse:
- A crucial element missing from discussions on child protection in India is the link between child abuse victims and animal cruelty.
- The connection between animal cruelty and human violence dates back to William Hogarth’s Four Stages of Cruelty in 1751.
- Studies since then consistently highlight the link, revealing that households with a history of animal abuse are often associated with children at risk of abuse or neglect.
- A 1980 pilot study in England found that in families with a history of animal abuse, 83% were identified as having children at risk of abuse or neglect.
- A 1983 study in New Jersey, U.S., discovered that animal abuse and child abuse co-occurred in 88% of cases.
- A 2019 study in the U.S. found that in 12.3% of cases involving interpersonal violence at homes, threats and violence towards animals were used to coerce children into compliance.
- Children may be reluctant to discuss animal abuse out of fear for themselves or the animals involved.
- Implications for Child Protection:
- Recognizing the link between animal cruelty and child abuse could offer a new perspective in addressing and preventing child abuse in India.
- It emphasizes the need for a holistic approach to child protection that considers various interconnected factors.
- Animal abuse is often easier to detect than child abuse, providing an avenue for early identification of homes with potential abuse.
- Victims of domestic violence, including children, may find it easier to report instances of animal abuse, offering a way to identify broader abuse situations.
- Circumstantial Evidence in Legal Proceedings:
- Animal abuse can serve as circumstantial evidence in legal proceedings, especially in custody and child abuse hearings.
- Due to the difficulty for children to provide detailed accounts of their own abuse, the link between animal cruelty and child abuse can play a crucial role.
- Urgent Need for Investigation in India:
- There is a strong link between animal cruelty and child abuse, necessitating further investigation, particularly in the Indian context.
- Despite efforts in other countries to study the co-occurrence of animal cruelty with violent crimes, no empirical assessment of this link has been conducted in India.
- The National Crime Records Bureau in India does not collect data on offences under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
- Data collection on animal cruelty can be a valuable tool for law enforcement to understand the overlap of different crimes, aiding in prevention efforts.
- Implications for Law Enforcement:
- Poor enforcement of anti-cruelty laws not only harms animals but also human victims of violence.
- Reporting and consistently enforcing anti-cruelty laws can act as a deterrent, preventing further acts of violence against both animals and humans.
- Collaboration Between Movements:
- Recognizing the link offers an opportunity for collaboration between child protection and animal protection movements to collectively reduce abuse.
- Stakeholders in both movements can work together to achieve their shared objective of reducing victimization.
- Understanding the link can help break the cycle of violence at its source, making children safer by preventing both animal and human abuse.
- Reporting and prosecuting animal abuse are seen as crucial steps not only for saving animals but also for protecting children from violence and securing a brighter future for them.
A dilemma over tribal land rights in Odisha
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
The Odisha Cabinet made a decision allowing tribals to transfer their land to non-tribals by amending the Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property Regulation, 1956.
- The decision, made on November 14, faced significant controversy, leading the government to put it on hold two days later.
- Amendment Details:
- The amendment allowed scheduled tribe individuals to transfer land to non-tribals with written permission for purposes like agriculture, housing, education, self-employment, business, or small-scale industries.
- The tribal seller or mortgagor should not be left landless or without a homestead after the transfer.
- Existing Provisions and Previous Attempts:
- The Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property Act includes strict provisions against the transfer of tribal lands, criminalizing forced alienation, and outlining eviction and restoration mechanisms.
- Attempts to amend the Act in the past 25 years, including one in 2010, were rejected by the President of India despite recommendations from Inter Ministerial Committees and Tribal Advisory Council.
- Tribal communities and activists working on tribal rights strongly resisted the Cabinet decision.
- Critics argued that the amendment could lead to a widespread transfer of tribal land in scheduled areas.
- Tribal Population in Odisha:
- As per the 2011 Census, Odisha has a tribal population of 95.91 lakh, constituting 22.85% of the total state population.
- The state is home to 62 distinct tribes, including 13 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups, making it one of the most diverse tribal landscapes in the country.
- Odisha ranks third in the country in terms of tribal population, following Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
- Scheduled Tribes in Scheduled Areas make up approximately 68.09% of the total tribal population in Odisha.
- Out of the 314 blocks in the state, 121 are designated as Scheduled Areas, covering about 44.70% of the state’s geographical expanse.
- Stringency of OSATIP 1956:
- The Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (OSATIP) Act of 1956 is recognized as one of the most stringent legislations safeguarding tribal interests.
- It was enacted in response to widespread reports of unchecked appropriation of tribal lands in Scheduled Areas.
- Tribal communities highly value land, considering it their most valuable asset.
- Land is crucial as tribal populations often lack business expertise, face challenges in transitioning to alternative livelihoods, and have limited access to capital and technology.
- CAG Report Findings:
- A draft report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) revealed a 12% decrease in tribal-held land in Odisha between 2005-06 and 2015-16, despite the existence of OSATIP during this period.
- Activists fear that the proposed amendment allowing land transfer could be perceived as an attack on tribal identity.
- Granting permission for land transfer might eliminate a crucial fallback option for tribals engaged in subsistence livelihoods.
- Economic disparities persist in Scheduled Areas, with the proposed amendment potentially enabling non-tribals to purchase tribal lands, altering demographic landscapes.
- Prominent figures, including politicians and business figures, have exploited loopholes in OSATIP to acquire tribal land.
- The proposed amendment could regularize unlawfully acquired tribal lands, offering a legal framework for such holdings.
- Repeated attempts to amend OSATIP expose class divisions within tribal communities.
- Some tribal segments seek financial progress through land monetization, while the majority want to retain ownership.
- Lack of Clarity in Amendment Terms:
- The proposed amendment, while put on hold by the government, included terms preventing tribal sellers from being landless or homestead-less.
- Lack of clarity in these terms raises concerns that a tribal individual could sell most of their land, retaining a small piece to avoid being classified as landless.
About Scheduled Areas
- As per the Constitutional provision outlined in Article 244(1) of the Constitution of India, the term ‘Scheduled Areas’ is defined as areas declared by the President through an order as specified in paragraph 6(1) of the Fifth Schedule.
- The procedure involves consultation with the Governor of the respective State.
- How a Scheduled Area is notified?
- Under Article 244(1), Scheduled Areas are those areas that the President designates by order.
- The President, in consultation with the Governor of the State, specifies Scheduled Areas through a notified order.
- According to paragraph 6(2) of the Fifth Schedule, the President has the authority to increase the area of any Scheduled Area in a State, following consultation with the State Governor.
- The President can issue fresh orders redefining Scheduled Areas in a State.
- The same process is applicable for alterations, increases, decreases, incorporation of new areas, or rescinding any orders related to Scheduled Areas.
- Current States with Scheduled Areas:
- Presently, Scheduled Areas have been declared in the following States: Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana), Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Rajasthan.
- Criteria for declaring Scheduled Area: The criteria for declaring any area as a “Scheduled Area” under the Fifth Schedule are:
- Preponderance of tribal population,
- Compactness and reasonable size of the area,
- A viable administrative entity such as a district, block or taluk, and
- Economic backwardness of the area as compared to the neighbouring areas.
- These criteria are not spelt out in the Constitution of India but have become well established.
- The Fifth Schedule under Article 244(1) of the Constitution outlines provisions concerning the administration of Scheduled Areas, excluding Northeast India.
- The President is vested with the authority to issue orders related to Scheduled Areas. These orders can include:
- Directing that the entirety or a specified part of a Scheduled Area ceases to be a Scheduled Area or part thereof.
- Altering boundaries, but only for rectification purposes, within a Scheduled Area.
- Declaring, upon alteration of State boundaries or the formation of a new State, any territory not previously part of any State to be, or form part of, a Scheduled Area.
- Rescinding, in relation to any State or States, any order(s) made under this provision.
- The President, in consultation with the Governor of the concerned State, can make fresh orders redefining areas designated as Scheduled Areas.
- While the President has the authority to include incidental and consequential provisions in the order, once an order is made under sub-paragraph (1), it cannot be varied by any subsequent order, except as specified.
Constitutional Provisions related to Scheduled Areas
- The provisions regarding “Scheduled Areas” in the Constitution of India are primarily outlined in the Fifth and Sixth Schedules.
- Article 244:
- The introduction of the Fifth Schedule is provided by Article 244. It empowers the President to schedule areas in a state where certain tribes or tribal communities reside.z
- Article 244(1):
- It allows the President to declare any area in a state as a Scheduled Area.
- Article 244(2):
- The Governor is given special responsibility for the administration of Scheduled Areas in the state.
- Article 244(1A):
- This was added by the 74th Amendment Act, 1992, to extend provisions related to Scheduled Areas and Tribal Advisory Councils to the urban areas in states with Scheduled Tribes.
- Article 244(2A):
- It provides for the establishment of a Tribes Advisory Council in each state that has Scheduled Areas.
- The Governor is mandated to submit a report to the President annually, highlighting the administration of Scheduled Areas and the welfare of Scheduled Tribes.
The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution pertains specifically to the administration of tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram.
- Article 244-A:
- This article provides for the creation of an autonomous state consisting of certain tribal areas in Assam and the creation of local legislatures or councils for such areas.
- Article 244-B:
- It extends provisions similar to those of the Fifth Schedule to the tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram, with modifications as mentioned in the Sixth Schedule.
- It establishes autonomous district councils and regional councils for tribal areas, which have certain legislative, executive, and financial powers.
- The Governor is granted special powers to administer tribal areas in these states in consultation with the district and regional councils.
- The Sixth Schedule empowers the district councils to make laws on land, forests, and their management.
- It safeguards the customary laws and social practices of the tribes, providing a certain degree of autonomy in matters related to their social and cultural practices.
Ghol Fish: Gujarat state fish
(General Studies- Paper I)
Source : The Indian Express
The Gujarat government has declared the ghol, a fish species found in the Indo-Pacific region, as the state fish.
- This decision is based on the fish’s economic value, uniqueness, and the need for conservation.
- Factors Behind Selection:
- Uniqueness: The ghol is chosen for its rarity, with limited reported catches.
- Economic Value: The fish is considered expensive and has a significant market, especially in China and other countries.
- Conservation: Designating it as the state fish aligns with conservation efforts to prevent over-exploitation.
- Consultative Process:
- The selection of a state fish involves a consultative process with representatives from all districts.
- Other species considered for the designation were ribbon fish, pomfret, and Bombay Duck.
- Commercial Importance:
- The ghol is valued for its taste and is considered a delicacy in many countries.
- It has a substantial market in China, and its air bladder, used for medicinal purposes, is exported to Asian countries.
- A kilogram of ghol can fetch between Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 in Gujarat, and the dried air bladder can reach Rs 25,000 per kilogram in the export market.
- Gujarat’s total fish production in 2021-22 was estimated at 8.74 lakh tonnes, with 2.3 lakh tonnes worth Rs 5,233 crore exported.