Topic 1: Nobel Prize for Peace 2023
Why in news: The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi the 2023 Nobel Prize for Peace for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all.
- Born in 1972 in Iran, Mohammadi is currently living in a detention facility there under the charges of “spreading anti-state propaganda” and defamation.
- Mohammadi and her family have long been involved in political protests – beginning with the Iranian Revolution.
- She went on to study nuclear physics in the city of Qazvin.
- She joined the Center for Human Rights Defenders in Iran which was founded by the Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi for the abolition of the death penalty.
- Incidentally, Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.
- The first Iranian woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Shirin Ebadi, received it for her efforts for democracy and human rights
- Her work:
- In 2022, her book ‘White Torture’ was published while she was briefly at home after a heart attack and surgery.
- It was an account of life under solitary confinement and it included interviews with other Iranian women who had undergone the punishment.
About the prize:
- The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, along with the prizes in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine and Literature.
- Since 1901 it has been awarded annually to those who have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.
- In accordance with Alfred Nobel’s will, the recipient is selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, a five-member committee appointed by the Parliament of Norway.
Topic 2: Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
Why in news: Russia might revoke its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
- The CTBT is a multilateral treaty that bans all nuclear explosions, whether for military or peaceful purposes.
- Although it was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996, it’s still in the ratification stage — 18 countries are yet to ratify (the process by which a state indicates its consent to be bound to a treaty).
- While Russia ratified the agreement in 2000, the US is still to do so.
- Before the CTBT can enter into force, all of the 44 countries listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty must ratify.
- These countries possessed nuclear power or research reactors when the CTBT was negotiated.
- Eight of the Annex 2 States have not yet ratified:
- North Korea,
- the United States of America.
How did CTBT come into being?
- The United States conducted the world’s first successful nuclear weapons test in July 1945.
- Four years later, the Soviet Union tested their first nuclear weapon.
- These tests triggered a decades-long arms race between the two superpowers.
- The radioactive fallout from those tests drew criticism from around the globe.
- Several attempts to curb the explosive tests were made.
- The 1963Limited Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (LTBT) was one of the first such attempts.
- It prohibited nuclear testing in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater, but underground tests were still permitted.
- Six years later, the US and Soviet Union agreed to sign the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT), which established a nuclear “threshold” by banning the two countries from conducting tests that would produce a yield exceeding 150 kilotons (equivalent to 150,000 tons of TNT).
- A major breakthrough only came after the Cold War ended around 1990 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
- As the geopolitical tensions simmered down, the UN took advantage of the situation and adopted the CTBT, which put a blanket ban on the explosive testing of nuclear weapons in 1996.
Did the CTBT stop nuclear testing?
- Since the CTBT, 10 nuclear tests have taken place.
- India conducted two in 1998,
- Pakistan also two in 1998, and
- North Korea conducted tests in 2006, 2009, 2013, 2016 (twice) and 2017.
- The United States last tested in 1992, China and France in 1996 and the Soviet Union in 1990.
- Russia, which inherited most of the Soviet nuclear arsenal, has never conducted a nuclear test.
Topic 3: Impact of climate change on amphibians
Why in news: Two out of five amphibians are facing extinction threat due to climate change: study
- What the data says:
- A new paper analysing two decades of data from around the world has found that climate change is emerging as one of the biggest threats to frogs, salamanders, and caecilians.
- Who conducted the study:
- The study is based on the second global amphibian assessment coordinated by the Amphibian Red List Authority:
- Amphibian Red List Authority is a branch of the Amphibian Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission and managed by Re:wild, a wildlife conservation group.
- Key findings:
- The assessment evaluated the extinction risk of more than 8,000 amphibian species from all over the world, including 2,286 species evaluated for the first time.
- The data revealed that two out of every five amphibians are threatened with extinction.
- Climate change was the primary threat for 39% of these species.
- Climate change is especially concerning for amphibians in large part because they are particularly sensitive to changes in their environment.
- Habitat destruction and degradation affect 93% of all threatened amphibian species.
Topic 4: National Turmeric Board
Why in news: Government of India notifies establishment of National Turmeric Board.
- The National Turmeric Board will focus on the development and growth of turmeric and turmeric products in the country.
- The National Turmeric Board will provide:
- leadership on turmeric related matters,
- augment the efforts, and
- facilitate greater coordination with Spices Board and other Government agencies in development and growth of the turmeric sector.
- Need and significance of the board:
- There is significant potential and interest world over on the health and wellness benefits of turmeric
- The Board will leverage to further:
- increase awareness and consumption,
- develop new markets internationally to increase exports,
- promote research and development into new products, and
- develop on our traditional knowledge for value-added turmeric products.
- It will especially focus on capacity building and skill development of turmeric growers for harnessing greater benefits out of value addition.
- The Board will also promote quality and food safety standards and adherence to such standards.
- The Board will also take steps to further safeguard and usefully exploit turmeric’s full potential for humanity.
- With the focused activities of the Board, it is expected that turmeric exports will reach USD 1 Billion by 2030.
- A Chairperson to be appointed by the Central Government,
- Members from the Ministry of AYUSH, Departments of Pharmaceuticals, Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Commerce & Industry of the Union Government,
- Senior State Government representatives from three states (on rotation basis),
- Select national/state institutions involved in research,
- Representatives of turmeric farmers and exporters, and
- A Secretary to be appointed by the Department of Commerce.
Production of Turmeric in India:
- India is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of turmeric in the world.
- In the year 2022-23, India accounted for over 75% of global turmeric production.
- More than 30 varieties of Turmeric are grown in India and it is grown in over 20 states in the country.
- The largest producing states of Turmeric are:
- Karnataka and
- Tamil Nadu.
- India has more than 62% share of world trade in turmeric.
- The leading export markets for Indian Turmeric are:
- USA and
Topic 5: Money bill
Why in news: Chief Justice of India said that a seven judge bench will soon be set up to hear a batch of pleas challenging the Centre’s use of the money bill route to pass certain key legislations.
What are bills?
- The purpose of a bill is to outline specific laws or changes to existing laws.
- They are introduced into a legislative body, such as a parliament, to be debated, discussed, and voted upon by lawmakers.
- When passed by the Parliament, bills become Acts of the Constitution of India.
What are money bills?
- A money bill is a specific type of financial legislation that exclusively deals with matters related to taxes, government revenues, or expenditures.
- Under Article 110(1), a Bill is deemed to be a money Bill if it deals only with matters specified in Article 110 (1) (a) to (g)
- It can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Parliament) and not in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house).
- Money bills are crucial for the government to carry out its financial plans, as they provide the legal framework for raising revenues and incurring expenditures.
- The chief difference between a Money Bill and a Finance Bill is that the latter has a provision for the inclusion of the Rajya Sabha while the former does not.
- Moreover, an ordinary Bill can be introduced in any house, while Money Bill can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha.
- According to Article 110 (3) of the Constitution, if any question arises whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not, the decision of the Speaker of the House of the People thereon shall be final.
- However, the court in the Aadhaar case had said that the Speaker’s decision will be subject to judicial scrutiny.
Key provisions of money bills:
- Imposition, abolition, and alteration of taxes
- Money bills hold power to impose, abolish, or alter taxes.
- This provision empowers the Union government to:
- introduce new taxes,
- modify existing ones, or
- abolish taxes that are no longer deemed necessary.
- These decisions directly influence the government’s revenue collection and taxation policies.
- Regulation of borrowing of money
- Money bills determine the government’s borrowing capacity and influence India’s financial strategies and economic stability.
- This provision ensures that the government adheres to responsible borrowing practices to maintain financial discipline.
- Matters incidental
- One crucial aspect of money bills is that they include any matter incidental to the specified provisions.
- While Article 110 does not precisely define the term “incidental,” it allows flexibility in addressing matters related to the primary financial issues covered in the bill.
- Consolidated Fund of India
- The Consolidated Fund of India is a critical aspect of money bills.
- It contains all revenues received by the government, including direct and indirect taxes, loans, and interest.
- The money bill requires parliamentary approval for depositing or withdrawing funds from this fund.
- The purpose of the Consolidated Fund is to ensure that the government’s financial resources are appropriately managed and accounted for.
- Money bills allow the appropriation of money from the consolidated fund for specific purposes, such as funding government programmes, infrastructure development, and social welfare schemes.
- Any expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund or an increase in such expenditure must be done through a money bill, ensuring transparency and accountability in government spending.
- Additionally, they include provisions related to the audit of accounts, ensuring that the financial transactions of both the Union and the states are subjected to scrutiny and oversight.
Exclusions from money bills
- Certain matters do not qualify as money bills, and these exclusions are outlined in the Indian Constitution.
- These include:
- the imposition of fines,
- pecuniary penalties,
- fees for licenses or services, and
- local taxes imposed by local authorities for local purposes.
- These matters are not considered directly related to the central financial policies of the union government.
The Aadhaar Act controversy
- The concept of money bills in India came into the spotlight during the enactment of the Aadhaar Act in 2016.
- Despite opposition, the Aadhaar Bill was certified as a “money bill” by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, meaning it did not require approval from the Rajya Sabha.
- The Rajya Sabha proposed certain amendments, but the Lok Sabha rejected them, and the Aadhaar Act was enacted unilaterally.
- However, this classification as a money bill was contested.
- However, as the Constitution, under Article 110(3), states that the final decision lies with the speaker, it raised the constitutional question of whether the Supreme Court could review the Speaker’s decision to classify a bill as a money bill.
- In 2018, a five-judge bench led by then chief justice of India, Deepak Mishra, upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Bill.
The larger bench
- Tribunal reform
- In 2019, in Roger Matthew vs Union of India, the Supreme Court heard the challenge against tweaks in the service conditions of tribunal members which was also introduced as a money bill in the Finance Act, 2017.
- While a five judge bench of the court struck down the law as unconstitutional for interfering with judicial independence, it referred the money bill aspect to a larger constitution bench.
- The observation about setting up a a seven judge bench came during the hearing challenging set of amendments to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
- In 2022, a three-judge bench had upheld the PMLA and the vast powers of the ED.
- However, the bench had left the validity of amendments to the PMLA through the Money Bill route open for a larger Constitution bench to hear.
Topic 6: Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 decriminalized
Why in news: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has notified amendments in the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.
- The notification provided the operational mechanism for implementation of the decriminalized provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
- Section 16 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 dealt with the punishment for contraventions under any of its provisions.
- This section had provision for imprisonment which might extend upto 2 years, in case of first instance and 5 years for every subsequent offence.
- The imprisonment provisions have been now replaced with monetary penalty and other non-monetary measures like Advisory, Warning and Censure.
- Punishments specified under Section 16 were re–examined and were decriminalized through the Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provision) Act, 2023
- To make the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 more business-friendly and to boost the investor confidence in the sector.
- Benefits of decriminalization of provisions under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995:
- The amendments are likely to encourage compliance with the Act without resorting to harsh punishments and sensitive to minor or unintended contraventions.
- The inclusion of advisory, censure, and warnings in the range of penalties suggests focus is on educating and encouraging compliance rather than solely punishing contraventions.
- The amended provision allows for the use of a range of penalties, which provides flexibility in addressing different types of contraventions.
- It allows for a more proportional response to the nature, specificity and severity of the contravention.
- The amendment in the rules defines a “designated officer” for imposing penalties.
- The amended provision explicitly addresses subsequent contraventions.
- This promotes consistency and discourages habitual or repeated contraventions.
- The inclusion of an appeal mechanism provides individuals or entities the opportunity to challenge penalties or decisions.
- The definition of common terms in cable industry like “platform services” and “local cable operator” have been defined in the rules for the first time to bring about uniformity in their usages.
Topic 7: Invasive plant species threaten 66% of India’s natural systems
Why in news: More than half of India’s natural systems are threatened by invasive plant species, a new study highlighted.
- About 66 per cent of the country’s natural systems are threatened with invasive species.
- The study offered the first account indicating distribution status of high-concern invasive plants spread across the country.
- The findings are a result of a national-level survey conducted in India, which noted that 158,000 plots in 358,000 square kilometres of wild area are invaded by alien species.
- The 11 high-concern invasive plant species that showed presence in 20 states of the country included Lantana camara, Prosopis juliflora and Chromolaena odorata.
- Tiger regions:
- The survival of apex predators like tigers depends on abundance of herbivores, which in turn depend on habitats free from the negative impacts of plant invasions.
- Proliferation of invasive plants jeopardises these delicate ecosystems, with far reaching impacts on species and people dependent on these ecosystems.
- Project Tiger was envisaged to serve as a flagship to monitor the changing status of carnivores, herbivores, and their habitat.
- Plant invasions alter habitats and reveal intricate ecological changes across biomes.
- Economic loss:
- The study estimated that loss due to biological invasions would cost the Indian economy up to $182.6 billion.
- Area based invasion:
- High concern invasive plants were recorded in 22 per cent natural areas and predicted to potentially threaten 66 per cent of natural areas.
- The data indicated that invasive cover increases with temperatures up to a threshold and declines with increasing rainfall, seasonal vegetation opening and human modification index.
- Human modification index is based on 13 anthropogenic sensors that provide a cumulative measure on impact of the human modification of terrestrial lands across the globe.
- Based on type of vegetation and biogeographic area:
- Savannas were reported to have the highest susceptibility (87 per cent) to invasions, followed by moist grasslands and dry deciduousforests each at 72 per cent.
- Savannas were largely invaded by woody Prosopis juliflora, particularly surrounding semi-arid protected areas.
- The evergreen forests were found to be least suitable for invasive species at 42 per cent susceptibility.
- Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in Western Ghats was one of the largest impacted hotspot areas due to invasion dominated by Lantana camara, Prosopis juliflora and Chromolaena odorata.
- Southern Eastern Ghats were found to host the most densely invaded landscapes with maximum vegetation of Prosopis juliflora and Lantana camara.
- Fragmented forests of Central Indian Highlands were also largely and densely invaded forest systems, typically along the ecocline between dry and moist systems.
- Savannas were reported to have the highest susceptibility (87 per cent) to invasions, followed by moist grasslands and dry deciduousforests each at 72 per cent.
- Spread of various invasive species:
- Lantana camara had the largest expanse covering 50 per cent of natural areas occurring across all natural systems.
- Mikania micrantha had comparatively least expanse covering 13 per cent of the natural area but mainly in moist grasslands and forests.
- Most species depicted the eco-climatic affinity of these plants.
- For example, 94 per cent invasion of Prosopis juliflora coincided with dry grassland savannas and dry deciduous forests.
- Species like Senna tora, Xanthium strumarium and Mesosphaerum suaveolens were predominant in dry savannas and deciduous forests,
- Mikania micrantha and Ageratina adenophora were distributed in moist grasslands and evergreen forests,” the report said.
- Factors causing the spread:
- Human modifications,
- shifting soil moisture regime,
- historical propagation of invasive plants and
- altered cycles of natural disturbances
- increasing work population densities
- proportional increase of demand for food, infrastructure, energy
- socio-ecological drivers
- Increase in invasive species means loss in ecosystem services from forests and increased propagules that is a vegetative structure that if detached from a plant can give rise to a new plant into agricultural areas will result in economic losses.
- An increase in the invasive plants which are unpalatable will translate into lack of food and result in reduced carrying capacity for herbivores, eventually causing decline and shortage of food for the apex predators.