Today Current Affairs: 9th February 2022 for UPSC IAS exams, State PSC exams, SSC CGL, State SSC, RRB, Railways, Banking Exam & IBPS, etc
Table of Contents
World Oil Outlook 2021:
The government said that the World Oil Outlook 2021, flagship publication by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC, has projected that the oil demand in India is expected to reach around 11 million barrels per day by 2045 as compared to approximately 4.9 million barrels per day in 2021.
- In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Rameswar Teli informed this.
- Rameswar said, the government has been taking up the issue, bilaterally with crude oil-producing countries with OPEC and with heads of other international fora to convey India’s serious concerns over crude oil price volatility, and India’s strong preference for responsible and reasonable pricing for consumer countries.
- The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is an intergovernmental organization or cartel of 13 countries.
- Founded on 14 September 1960 in Baghdad by the first five members (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela), it has since 1965 been headquartered in Vienna, Austria, although Austria is not an OPEC member state.
Power Minister R K Singh virtually launched Powerthon-2022, a hackathon competition to find technology-driven solutions to solve the complex problems in power distribution and to ensure quality and reliable power supply.
- Mr Singh said, this program is much needed in the power sector.
- He encouraged technologists to come forward not only with solutions to existing problems but also with other problem statements and ideas for reliable power supply.
- He said that ideas and concepts will be rewarded with licence and the development of prototypes will also be fostered.
- The competition will bring together qualified mentors with TSPs, innovators, and other participants from across the nation to create teams that hack for the future and develop solutions that contribute to creating a much more vibrant and efficient electricity network.
The Railway Protection Force has launched a nationwide operation to curb human trafficking.
- As part of “Operation AAHT”, special teams will be deployed on all long-distance trains/routes with focus on rescuing victims, particularly women and children, from the clutches of traffickers.
- The Railways, which operate about 21,000 trains across the country daily, is the most reliable mode of transportation for the traffickers who often move their victims on long-distance trains.
- As part of “Operation AAHT”, the infrastructure and intelligence network of the force could be utilised to collect, collate and analyse clues on victims, source, route, destination, popular trains used by suspects, identity of carriers/agents, kingpins etc and shared with other law-enforcing agencies.
- The RPF could act as a bridge cutting across States to assist the local police in the mission to curb the menace.
PM CARES Fund:
The PM CARES Fund collected ₹10,990 crore since its inception in March 2020 until March 2021.
- It spent ₹3,976 crore during the 2020-21 financial year, according to the audited financial statement posted on its website.
- As on March 31, 2021, the Fund had an unspent balance of ₹7,044 crore.
- The Fund was set up to deal with “any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected.”
- During the year, funds were disbursed for COVID vaccine purchase and testing, ventilators, hospitals, testing labs, oxygen generation plants and migrant welfare.
- Despite an earlier announcement that ₹100 crore would be spent on supporting vaccine development, no such disbursal seems to have been done.
- The Fund was established on March 27, 2020.
The Union Finance Minister in the Union Budget for 2022-23 announced National Ropeways Development Programme – “Parvatmala” to improve connectivity in hilly areas.
- The scheme will be taken up on PPP (Public Private Partnership) mode, which will be a preferred ecologically sustainable alternative in place of conventional roads in difficult hilly areas.
- The idea is to improve connectivity and convenience for commuters, besides promoting tourism.
- This may also cover congested urban areas, where conventional mass transit systems are not feasible.
- The scheme is being presently started in regions like Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Jammu & Kashmir and the other North Eastern states.
- The Finance Minister announced that contracts for 8 ropeway projects for a length of 60 km would be awarded in 2022-23.
- The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) will have responsibility for development of ropeway and alternative mobility solutions technology, as well as construction, research, and policy in this area.
- In February 2021, the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961 was amended, which enabled the MORTH to also look after the development of Ropeways and Alternate Mobility Solutions.
- The move will give a boost to the sector by setting up a regulatory regime.
- The MORTH has so far been responsible for development of Highways and regulating the road transport sector across the country.
What Is Bioremediation?
A team of Argentine scientists is using microorganisms native to Antarctica to explore the idea of cleaning up pollution from fuels and, potentially, plastics in the pristine expanses of the white continent.
- The continent is protected by a 1961 Madrid Protocol that stipulates it must be kept in a pristine state.
- Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year for use in a wide variety of applications.
- At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.
- The researchers collected samples of plastic from the Antarctic seas and studied to see if the microorganisms are eating the plastics or simply using them as rafts.
- The team carried out bioremediation tasks.
- The team helped the microbes with nitrogen, humidity and aeration to optimize their conditions.
- This work uses the potential of native microorganisms – bacteria and fungi that inhabit the Antarctic soil, even when it is contaminated – and make these microorganisms eat the hydrocarbons.
- The tiny microbes munch through the waste, creating a naturally occurring cleaning system for pollution caused by diesel that is used as a source of electricity and heat for research bases in the frozen Antarctic.
- The research on how the microbes could help with plastic waste could have potential for wider environmental issues.
- It is a branch of biotechnology that employs the use of living organisms, like microbes and bacteria, in the removal of contaminants, pollutants, and toxins from soil, water, and other environments.
- Bioremediation is used to clean up oil spills or contaminated groundwater.
- Bioremediation may be done “in situ”–at the site of the contamination–or “ex situ”–away from the site.
- By relying solely on natural processes, it minimizes damage to ecosystems.
- Bioremediation often takes place underground, where amendments and microbes can be pumped in order to clean up contaminants in groundwater and soil.
- Consequently, bioremediation does not disrupt nearby communities as much as other cleanup methodologies.
- “Amendments” to the environment, such as molasses, vegetable oil, or simple air optimize conditions for microbes to flourish, thereby accelerating the completion of the bioremediation process.
- The bioremediation process creates relatively few harmful byproducts (mainly due to the fact that contaminants and pollutants are converted into water and harmless gases like carbon dioxide).
- Bioremediation is cheaper than most cleanup methods because it does not require substantial equipment or labor.
Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary:
With the onset of summer, the seasonal migration of wild animals has begun from the adjacent wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) in Kerala.
- The sanctuary is a haven for wild animals during summer owing to the easy availability of fodder and water throughout the year.
- Located in Kerala, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) is an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It was established in 1973.
- Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve was the first from India to be included in the UNESCO designated World Network of Biosphere Reserves (designated in 2012).
- Other wildlife parks within the Reserve are: Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Bandipur National Park, Nagarhole National Park, Mukurthi National Park and Silent Valley.
- Spread over 344.44 sq km, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is contiguous to the tiger reserves of Nagerhole and Bandipur of Karnataka and Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu.
- Kabini river (a tributary of the Cauvery river) flows through the sanctuary.
- The forest types include South Indian Moist Deciduous forests, West coast semi-evergreen forests and plantations of teak, eucalyptus and Grewelia.
- Elephant, Gaur, Tiger, Panther, Sambar, Spotted deer, Wild boar, Sloth bear, Nilgiri langur, Bonnet macaque, Common langur, Malabar giant squirrel etc are the major mammals.
Freedom Of religion And Attire:
Six students were banned from entering a college in Karnataka’s Udupi district for wearing a hijab. The issue throws up legal questions on reading the freedom of religion and whether the right to wear a hijab is constitutionally protected or not.
- Article 25(1) of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.
- It is a right that guarantees negative liberty — which means that the state shall ensure that there is no interference or obstacle to exercising this freedom.
- Limitations: Like all fundamental rights, the state can restrict the right for grounds of public order, decency, morality, health and other state interests.
Observations made by the Supreme Court in this matter:
- People have a right under the Constitution to profess, practise and propagate religion (Article 25).
- Every person is the final judge of his/her choice of religion or who their life partner should be. Courts cannot sit in judgment of a person’s choice of religion or life partner.
- Religious faith is a part of the fundamental right to privacy.
- Shirur Mutt case in 1954: The doctrine of “essentiality” was invented by the Supreme Court.
- The court held that the term “religion” will cover all rituals and practices “integral” to a religion, and took upon itself the responsibility of determining the essential and non-essential practices of a religion.
- In Amna Bint Basheer v Central Board of Secondary Education (2016), the Kerala High Court held that the practice of wearing a hijab constitutes an essential religious practise but did not quash the dress code prescribed by CBSE.
- It rather provided additional safeguards, such as examining students wearing full sleeves when needed.
- In Fathima Tasneem v State of Kerala (2018), Kerala HC held that collective rights of an institution would be given primacy over the individual rights of the petitioner.
- The case involved two girls who wanted to wear the headscarf.
- The school refused to allow the headscarf. However, the court dismissed the appeal as students were no more in the rolls of the respondent-School.
Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999:
The Kerala governor has signed the ordinance proposing amendments to the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999, that makes the agency’s orders not binding on the government.
Amendments to the Kerala Lok Ayukta Act, 1999:
- The government can “either accept or reject the verdict of the Lokayukta, after giving an opportunity of being heard”.
- Currently, under Section 14 of the Act, a public servant is required to vacate office if directed by the Lokayukta.
- The amendments are being opposed for two reasons:
- The changes are proposed through an ordinance and hence there was no proper discussions on the matter.
- It violates the fundamental spirit of the central Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.
Iran Nuclear Deal:
Western diplomats have set a deadline of later this month to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
- The deal was dismantled in 2018 by President Donald Trump.
- American officials are concerned about Iran’s rapid nuclear escalation after the US abandoned the deal. Iran has already said that it is enriching uranium fuel in the country.
- US has said that it will rejoin the agreement if Iran complies with the terms of the original deal, and if it addresses other issues related to alleged ballistic missile stockpiles and the proxy conflicts that it backs across the region.
- Iran Nuclear Deal Also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
- The JCPOA was the result of prolonged negotiations from 2013 and 2015 between Iran and P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, or the EU).
- Under the deal, Tehran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.
- Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord in 2018. Besides, he opted for a “maximum pressure” campaign by imposing sanctions and other tough actions.
- Iran responded by intensifying its enrichment of uranium and building of centrifuges, while maintaining its insistence that its nuclear development was for civilian and not military purposes.
- Again, In January 2020, following the drone strike on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Gen. Qasem Soleiman, Iran announced that it would no longer observe the JCPOA’s restraints.
- The collapse of the JCPOA drags Iran towards nuclear brinkmanship, like North Korea, which has created major geopolitical instability in the region and beyond.
What Is ‘One Nation, One Election?
The Centre has clarified that it is not planning on amending the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to enable a common electoral roll and simultaneous elections to all electoral bodies in the country.
- This is because many concerns have been expressed against them and there has been no consensus yet on the matter.
- While the Centre may not be planning to amend the Representation of the People Act, it has held meetings with various stakeholders, including the EC, on the possibility of States adopting the same electoral roll for local body polls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken in favour of “one nation, one election” many times.
- ‘One Nation, One Election refers to holding elections to Lok Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies, Panchayats and Urban local bodies simultaneously, once in five years.
- Under the Common Electoral Roll, only one voter list will be used for Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and other elections.
- In many states, the voters’ list for the panchayat and municipality elections is different from the one used for Parliament and Assembly elections.
- The distinction stems from the fact that the supervision and conduct of elections in our country are entrusted with two constitutional authorities — the Election Commission (EC) of India and the State Election Commissions (SECs).
- The preparation of a separate voters list causes duplication of the effort and the expenditure.
- Therefore, a common electoral roll and simultaneous elections as a way to save an enormous amount of effort and expenditure.
Kawal Tiger Reserve:
The Kawal Tiger Reserve is going to host its first ever ‘Bird Walk’ on February 12 and 13.
- Kawal is home to a rich diversity in flora and fauna with more than 300 species of birds, and over 600 tree species with different forest compositions.
- The reserve is located in Telangana.
- The reserve is the oldest sanctuary in the northern Telangana region of the state.
- This sanctuary is catchment for the rivers Godavari and Kadam.
- The sanctuary is one of the richest teak forests in the state, with dense pristine areas free of human disturbance.
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act:
The Supreme Court has pulled up the Tripura Police and the government for repeated notices under UAPA sent to journalists, activists, and people who tweeted the articles on alleged violence in the state.
- Towards the end of October 2021, a mosque, some shops and houses belonging to the minority Muslim community in Tripura were allegedly vandalised.
- The communal violence was purportedly triggered by anti-Hindu violence in neighbouring Bangladesh.
- Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Passed in 1967, the law aims at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
- The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.
- It has death penalty and life imprisonment as highest punishments.
- Under UAPA, both Indian and foreign nationals can be charged.
- It will be applicable to the offenders in the same manner, even if crime is committed on a foreign land, outside India.
- Under the UAPA, the investigating agency can file a charge sheet in maximum 180 days after the arrests and the duration can be extended further after intimating the court.
- The Act empowers the Director General of National Investigation Agency (NIA) to grant approval of seizure or attachment of property when the case is investigated by the said agency.
- The Act empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases of terrorism in addition to those conducted by the DSP or ACP or above rank officer in the state.
- It also included the provision of designating an individual as a terrorist.
- In June 2021, delivering a judgment defining the contours of the otherwise “vague” Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, (UAPA), the Delhi High Court laid down some important principles upon the imposition of Section 15, 17 & 18 of the Act.