CURRENT AFFAIRS – 30/12/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS - 30/12/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 30/12/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 30/12/2023

Centre, Assam sign peace pact with ULFA faction

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Assam government, and the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) signed a historic memorandum of settlement aimed at bringing lasting peace to Assam.

  • ULFA cadres, numbering around 700, have agreed to surrender arms, vacate camps, and transition into mainstream society through peaceful democratic processes.

Key Highlights

  • The MHA will formulate a time-bound program to fulfill ULFA’s demands, and a monitoring committee will be established to oversee the implementation of the agreement.
  • Chief Minister HimantaBiswaSarma acknowledged the historical context, stating that since 1979, around 10,000 lives were lost in the Assam agitation.
  • Assam Chief Minister also expressed optimism for the future, stating that doors are open for the Paresh Baruah faction to join the talks.
  • Talks with the Paresh Baruah faction may continue in the aftermath of the current accord’s culmination.
  • Important Points from Accord:
    • 97 out of 126 Assembly seats in Assam will be reserved for indigenous people, addressing long-standing concerns and providing a substantial representation for the native population.
    • The future delimitation exercise will follow the principle of reserving seats for indigenous people, ensuring continued political representation that aligns with the demographic composition of the region.
    • A significant milestone in economic development, the peace accord secured pledges of ₹1.5 lakh crore in investments, indicating a commitment to fostering growth and prosperity in the region.
    • The accord guarantees constitutional safeguards, with a focus on protecting land rights and implementing restrictions on migration from one constituency to another, addressing concerns related to demographic changes and land ownership.
  • A 16-member delegation of the ULFA, led by ArabindaRajkhowa, participated in the signing, highlighting the group’s commitment to the peace process.
  • The ULFA had entered into a suspension of operation (SoO) agreement with the MHA and the Assam government in 2011.
  • The faction led by Paresh Baruah, known as ULFA-I, has not joined the peace process.
    • Baruah is reportedly in China, and his faction, with around 100 cadres operating from the Myanmar border, remains outside the current accord.

About ULFA

The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was established on April 7, 1979, in Sivasagar, Assam, by a group of individuals including Paresh Baruah, ArabindaRajkhowa, AnupChetia, and BudheswarGogoi.

  • The organization’s founding mission was to undertake an armed struggle for the creation of a separate, independent state of Assam.
  • Over 44 years, this struggle has been marked by incidents such as kidnappings, extortion, executions, and bomb blasts, resulting in tragic loss of life in Assam and beyond.
  • In 1990, the Indian government launched Operation Bajrang, resulting in the arrest of 1,221 ULFA insurgents.
  • Assam was declared a “disturbed area,” President’s rule was imposed, and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was invoked.
  • Internal Divisions:
    • ULFA has faced internal divisions and differences of opinion, leading to the formation of factions like Surrendered ULFA (SULFA) in 1992.
    • SULFA later allegedly engaged in “secret killings” of ULFA insurgents and their family members on behalf of the state government.
  • External Support:
    • Despite internal challenges and government actions, ULFA has persisted, partly due to alleged support from outside India.
    • The group maintained camps in Myanmar, and previously in Bangladesh and Bhutan.
    • These remote camps in jungles and hilly areas serve as launchpads for cross-border operations, as well as shelters and training bases for insurgents.
    • ULFA’s network extends to other insurgent outfits in the Northeast and Myanmar.
    • Additionally, it has links to Islamic terror outfits, including Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami and Al-Qaeda.
    • The self-styled military chief, Paresh Baruah, reportedly met Osama Bin Laden.

A quiet reprieve

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : TH

The Qatari court of appeals has decided to reduce the capital punishment initially given to eight former Indian naval personnel in October, providing a major reprieve for the individuals and their families.

  • However, the upheld conviction is a setback, prompting a reassessment of the legal strategy.

Key Highlights

  • The government and families must analyze evidence of innocence before filing a review petition with Qatar’s Court of Cassation, the highest in the legal system.
  • If judicial appeals fail, the government has three options:
    • continuing to seek a review with Qatar’s ruling Emir,
    • appealing for clemency, or
    • exploring the option of the men serving their terms in India under a bilateral Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons.
  • The government is urged to pursue diplomatic and political efforts at the highest level, emphasizing the men as a priority for India.
  • The development follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent outreach to the Qatari leadership, emphasizing the significance of diplomatic efforts.
  • Unlike its approach to other cases, such as with Canada, India has chosen not to react with public rhetoric in this case.
    • This measured response is commendable, avoiding counterproductive actions.
    • New Delhi’s decision to avoid public rhetoric, especially targeting Doha in the media, is noted as a positive move.
  • If the case is linked to India’s intelligence services, a review of operations that could jeopardize Indians overseas is suggested.
  • India has maintained a consistently calibrated position, mindful of Qatar’s sensitivities and not allowing the case to become entangled in regional tensions.
  • The hope is that a quietly determined diplomatic push, coupled with a carefully calibrated position, will ensure the safe return of the eight Indians.

A call for disability inclusion that must be heeded

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : TH

The need for novel and innovative solutions in neuropsychiatric rehabilitation to enhance the daily activities and quality of life of individuals affected by a spectrum of disorders is indeed critical.

  • The International Day for Persons with Disabilities on December 3 has led the focus to transformative solutions that promote inclusive development, aligning with the United Nations’ commitment to leave no one behind.

Key Highlights

  • Global Landscape of Neuropsychiatric Disorders:
    • Neuropsychiatric disorders, spanning from childhood to old age, encompass conditions such as autism, ADHD, intellectual disabilities, mental health disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and neurodegenerative diseases.
    • The staggering numbers, including 317 million affected in childhood and 970 million globally, underscore the urgency of addressing this diverse range of conditions.
  • Rehabilitation Needs and Global Burden:
    • The World Health Organization’s Global Burden of Disease study in 2019 reveals a significant demand for rehabilitation, with 2.41 billion individuals having conditions that could benefit from it.
    • This contributes to 310 million Years of Living with Disabilities (YLD), representing a 63% increase from 1990 to 2019.
    • Despite the evident need, rehabilitation is often perceived as a disability-specific service, resulting in its under-prioritization and under-resourcing.
  • Broadening the Scope of Rehabilitation Services:
    • Recognizing the interconnectedness of neurology and psychiatry, a holistic approach to rehabilitation services is advocated.
    • Rather than a narrow, specialist-led concept, rehabilitation should be designed to address the wide spectrum of neurological and mental health problems.
    • The imperative is to build awareness in communities that disablement is not an inevitable fate; it can be treated and, in some cases, reversed.
    • There is a need to encourage medical professionals, service providers, and public health experts to recognize rehabilitation as an essential service.
    • Beyond traditional healthcare roles, rehabilitation across the lifespan requires the involvement of various professionals, including physical and occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, psychological therapists, and professional caregivers.
    • To elevate these professions, it is important to enhance professional profiles by improving training, creating mainstream career opportunities, and empowering their overall growth.
    • In line with contemporary understanding, rehabilitation services should be multidisciplinary, multicomponent, and holistic.
    • Developing such comprehensive service paradigms is deemed crucial to effectively address the diverse and complex needs of individuals affected by neuropsychiatric disorders.
  • Scientific Advances in Neuropsychiatric Care:
    • The emergence of unique paradigms in neuropsychiatric care resulting from scientific advances is also significant.
    • Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) procedures, particularly Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS), have proven highly beneficial in the care and rehabilitation of both neurological and mental health conditions.
    • rTMS is recognized as a mainstream treatment for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and as an adjuvant therapy for various conditions such as Parkinson’s disease tremors, schizophrenia symptoms, addictions, pain, spasticity management post-strokes and traumatic brain injuries, as well as in Autism Spectrum Disorder and aggression.
    • An allied technique, Functional (or peripheral) Magnetic Stimulation (FMS), is also highlighted for its effectiveness in addressing pain, spasticity, incontinence, and other disabling neurological symptoms.
    • The transcranial electrical stimulation (TES) and its sub-types (direct current, alternate current, and random noise) in neuropsychiatric treatment is also promising.
    • TES has demonstrated success in improving memory and cognition, mood and behavior, anxiety, tremors, confusion, delirium, and sleep disorders.
    • Its portability and bedside applicability add to its advantages.
    • In the post-COVID-19 era, the transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (tA-VNS) as a treatmentis also significant.
    • Given that vagus nerve abnormalities are linked to various long COVID-19 symptoms, tA-VNS, initially developed for epilepsy, is now being investigated for its potential in treating depression, migraines, and dysautonomia.
  • The Global Imperative for Collaboration:
    • Recognizing the substantial population of people with disabilities globally, particularly 80% in developing countries, the United Nations’ call for disability inclusion in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a positive step.
    • Amid the vulnerability of persons with disabilities, highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for collaborative efforts between governments, public and private sectors to innovate solutions for and with persons with disabilities is emphasized.
    • The overarching goal is to create a more accessible and equitable world, aligning with the broader vision of leaving no one behind in the pursuit of sustainable development.

About 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a comprehensive and transformative global initiative adopted by all United Nations (UN) member states in September 2015.
  • This agenda provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, recognizing the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental dimensions.
  • At the core of the agenda are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which encompass a broad range of issues and challenges facing the world.

Navy unveils new Admirals’ epaulettes

(General Studies- Paper I)

Source : TH

Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement during Navy Day celebrations at Sindhudurg on December 4, the Indian Navy has introduced a significant transformation in its symbolism.

  • The new design of Admirals’ epaulettes, unveiled after the announcement, reflects a departure from British nomenclature and embraces India’s rich maritime heritage.

Key Highlights

  • Design Inspiration and Symbolism:
    • The new epaulettes draw inspiration from the naval ensign and the rajmudra of ChhatrapatiShivaji, symbolizing a “true reflection of our rich maritime heritage.”
    • The octagon in the design represents a commitment to eradicate the “slave mentality,” emphasizing the values of Virasat Par Garv (pride in heritage) and GhulamikiMansikta se Mukti (freedom from a slave mindset).
    • The golden navy button top, octagon, crossed Indian sword and telescope, and stars indicate the ranks of Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral, and Admiral.
  • The adoption of the new design is portrayed as a reaffirmation of the Navy’s commitment to embracing “Bharatiyata” (Indianness) in both letter and spirit.
  • This initiative aligns with the larger vision of instilling pride in India’s heritage and fostering a sense of independence from historical subjugation.

About Indian Navy Day

  • Indian Navy Day is celebrated annually on December 4th.
  • Indian Navy Day holds historical significance as it marks the success of Operation Trident during the 1971 Indo-Pak War.
  • On the night of December 4, 1971, the Indian Navy executed a daring and successful attack on the Karachi harbor, crippling the Pakistani naval fleet.
  • The operation demonstrated the strategic prowess and effectiveness of the Indian Navy.
  • The day also serves to honor the indomitable spirit and sacrifices of naval personnel in safeguarding the country’s maritime interests.

India, Hong Kong bust synthetic diamond trading syndicate

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

Indian Customs, in collaboration with its Hong Kong counterpart, has exposed a significant case of Trade-Based Money Laundering (TBML).

  • The operation resulted in the arrest of eight individuals involved in laundering approximately $65 million.
  • The scheme revolved around the import of low-cost synthetic diamonds falsely declared as natural diamonds.

Key Highlights

  • The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence initially uncovered the racket, focusing on the import of synthetic diamonds to a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in India for the purpose of remitting foreign currency abroad.
  • Investigations revealed that the syndicate misdeclared cheap synthetic diamonds as natural diamonds, inflating their value by over 100 times.
  • The diamonds were imported from Hong Kong-based firms into the SEZ in India.
  • The DRI also identified instances where genuine diamonds were imported, replaced with synthetic ones, and illicitly moved outside the SEZ.
  • Money Laundering Through Inflated Diamond Trade:
    • The importing entity was found to be exporting jewelry adorned with diamonds at highly inflated values to Hong Kong and other countries.
    • While the majority of the declared inflated value for imports was sent out of the country through banking channels, the remittances received for exports were minimal, suggesting that the diamond trade was a cover for laundering money abroad.
    • Money entered the importing entity’s bank account via transactions conducted by various dummy firms in India.
    • Subsequently, the funds were transferred or laundered from this single account to overseas suppliers in Hong Kong under the pretext of payment for the import of diamonds.
    • Evidence indicated that the mastermind behind this TBML operation was based in Hong Kong.

What is Trade-Based Money Laundering (TBML)?

  • Trade-Based Money Laundering (TBML) is a sophisticated form of money laundering that involves the exploitation of international trade transactions to conceal the illicit movement of funds across borders.
  • It is a method used by criminals to legitimize their ill-gotten gains by manipulating the trade process.
  • TBML exploits the complexity of international trade transactions, involving the movement of goods and funds across different jurisdictions.
  • Criminals use trade transactions to hide the origins of illicit funds and make them appear legitimate.
  • Criminals manipulate trade transactions by misrepresenting the value, quantity, or nature of goods being traded.
  • Inflating or deflating invoices, misclassifying goods, or engaging in over- or under-invoicing are common tactics.
  • TBML often involves integrating illegal funds with legitimate trade activities, making it challenging for authorities to distinguish between lawful and illicit transactions.
  • Similar to other money laundering methods, TBML involves creating multiple layers of transactions to obfuscate the trail of illicit funds.
  • Funds may move through various intermediaries, shell companies, and financial institutions to further complicate tracking.

What are synthetic diamonds?

  • Synthetic diamonds, also known as lab-grown diamonds, cultured diamonds, or man-made diamonds, are diamonds created through artificial processes rather than being formed naturally within the Earth’s mantle.
  • These diamonds have the same chemical composition, crystal structure, and physical properties as natural diamonds, but they are produced in a controlled laboratory environment.
  • Characteristics of Synthetic Diamonds:
    • Chemical Composition: Lab-grown diamonds have the same elemental composition as natural diamonds, consisting of carbon atoms arranged in a crystal lattice structure.
    • Physical Properties: Synthetic diamonds exhibit the same hardness, transparency, and brilliance as natural diamonds.
    • Inclusions: While synthetic diamonds can have inclusions, their nature may differ from those found in natural diamonds, providing gemologists with clues to distinguish between them.

India closing in on lithium-deal with Argentina

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : TH

The Mines Ministry of India, represented by the state-owned KhanijBidesh India Ltd (KABIL), is actively pursuing lithium ventures globally.

  • Recently, KABIL entered into a draft exploration and development agreement with Argentine miner CAMYEN, aiming for the potential acquisition and development of lithium blocks.

Key Highlights

  • KABIL is in advanced talks for the acquisition of lithium blocks in Argentina.
  • The acquisition cost is estimated to be a “couple of hundred crores,” and the proposal is expected to seek Cabinet approval.
  • Argentina is a significant player in the global lithium market, with approximately one-fifth of the world’s lithium resources.
    • KABIL has signed a non-disclosure agreement with Chilean miner ENAMI for potential exploration, extraction, processing, and commercialization of lithium.
    • KABIL has engaged consultancy major PwC to identify investable projects in Australia, another prominent lithium producer globally.
  • Latin American nations, particularly Chile and Argentina, contribute 30–35% of the world’s lithium supplies.
  • Chile, holding 11% of global lithium reserves, supplies 26% of the market, while Argentina, with nearly one-fifth of the global resources, contributes about 6%.
  • KABIL’s Exploration Focus:
    • KABIL, a joint venture involving companies like NALCO, HCL, and MECL, is strategically focusing on sourcing lithium and cobalt for the domestic market.
    • The move aligns with India’s increasing emphasis on securing critical minerals for green energy initiatives, reducing carbon footprints, and bolstering the domestic supply chain.
  • India’s Lithium Demand and Import Scenario:
    • India has witnessed a surge in the demand for lithium, a crucial component in electric vehicles (EVs), lithium-ion battery production, and other energy storage solutions.
    • Despite possessing lithium blocks for auction in regions like Jammu and Kashmir and Chhattisgarh, India predominantly relies on imports, with an import bill reaching around ₹24,000 crore.

About KhanijBidesh India Ltd (KABIL)

  • KABIL, short for KhanijBidesh India Ltd, is a joint venture involving prominent Indian government-owned entities, including NALCO (National Aluminium Company Limited), HCL (Hindustan Copper Limited), and MECL (Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited).
  • The joint venture company was formed in August, 2019.
  • KABIL is primarily focused on the exploration, acquisition, and sourcing of critical minerals and metals globally.
  • The company plays a crucial role in securing strategic minerals essential for various industries, including the electric vehicle (EV) sector, renewable energy, and high-tech manufacturing.

CISF’s first woman chief

(General Studies- Paper II and III)

Source : The Indian Express

Nina Singh, a senior IPS officer, has assumed the position of Director General of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), becoming the first woman to hold this position.

  • The CISF is a central force responsible for guarding civil airports and critical installations.
  • The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) issued an order for Nina Singh’s appointment as the DG of CISF.

Key Highlights

  • Nina Singh hails from Bihar and pursued her education at Patna Women’s College. She holds Master’s degrees from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Harvard.
  • Nina Singh has received awards, including the President’s Police Medal for Meritorious Service, the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service, and the ‘AtiUtkrishtSeva Medal.’ She has also been honored with the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini Award and the Nari Shakti Samman.
  • During her tenure as Joint Director of CBI from 2013 to 2018, she supervised high-profile cases related to corruption, economic offenses, bank frauds, and sports integrity. She also headed the investigation of the Sheena Bora murder case.
  • She earned the title of ‘Champion of Evidence-Based Policing’ from the Cambridge University Police Executive Programme, UK.

About Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)

  • The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) was officially established on March 10, 1969.
  • The force was created under the CISF Act, 1968, with the primary aim of providing security to various public-sector industries and establishments in the country.
  • CISF is classified as a paramilitary force, functioning under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
  • CISF is responsible for securing vital installations, including airports, seaports, nuclear installations, power plants, and sensitive government buildings.
  • In addition to industrial security, CISF has expanded its role to provide security services for metro rail systems in major cities.

About the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC)

  • The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) is a key decision-making body formed by the Government of India.
  • The ACC is chaired by the Prime Minister of India and includes the Minister of Home Affairs as its member.
  • Originally the Minister-in-charge of the concerned Ministry was also part of the committee but since July 2016, those ministers are excluded from this committee.
  • The ACC is responsible for making important decisions related to appointments and postings of top-level bureaucrats and officers in the central government.
  • The committee makes appointments to posts of:
    • Chief of Defence Staff
    • Chiefs of the three services (COAS, CNS, CAS)
    • Chiefs of all Army, Naval, and Air Force Commands
    • Director General, Defence Intelligence Agency
    • Director General Military Operations
    • Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister
    • Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) – Involving the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, and the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha
    • Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) – Involving the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, and the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha or the Leader of the largest such faction, etc. among various other posts.