Topic 1 : Bhoot Chaturdashi
Why in news: The day before Diwali is known as Chhoti Diwali Bhoot or Naraka Chaturdashi.
Celebration in different states:
- The day before Diwali, Chhoti Diwali is especially associated with beliefs around the descent of spirits on earth, and the slaying of the demon Narakasura, who embodied darkness.
- It is for these reasons that this day is also known as Bhoot or Naraka Chaturdashi.
- In Goa, huge effigies of the Asura King Narakasura are burnt across the state.
- The ‘Narakasura Vadh’ symbolises the defeat of Narakasura by Lord Krishna.
- WEST BENGAL
- On the day before Diwali (Chhoti Diwali), people in West Bengal observe ‘Bhoot Chaturdashi’, which is the same as ‘Narak Chaturdashi’, or ‘Kali Chaudash’.
- This is the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Kartik.
- It is believed on this night, the souls of the deceased come down to earth to visit their dear ones.
- The 14 lamps (‘choddo prodip’) are intended both to welcome the forefathers, and to chase away evil spirits.
- It is also a ritual to consume 14 different types of ‘saag’ or leafy vegetables (‘choddo shaak’) to mark the occasion.
- At some places, ‘Aghoris’, Shaivite ascetics of the Tantric ‘kapalik’ tradition, gather on Bhoot Chaturdashi to carry out ‘puja’ and Tantric rituals.
- On Kali Chaudash (chaturdashi), many people in Gujarat perform a ritual called ‘kaklat kadhvo’, which figuratively means getting rid of clamour and troubles.
- At the centre of the ritual is the ‘vada’, a homemade fried snack.
- As the women head home after performing the ritual, they do not look back — for the belief is, the ‘kaklats’ (quarrels, clamour, resentment, domestic grievances etc.) will not leave the house if they do.
- In the villages, the ‘bhuvas’ (religious head of the community) go to the village cremation ground on the evening of Kali Chaudash and perform a ritual to control the spirits.
- On the day of Diwali, Gujarati businesses close their financial year and accounts for that year in a ritual called ‘Chopda Poojan’, in which the traditional account books are worshipped at the auspicious hour.
- No business is transacted in the days after Diwali until the fifth day of the New Year, marking ‘Labh Paacham’.Topic 2 : Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023
Why in news: The Information & Broadcasting Ministry released the draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023.
- Aims and purpose:
- The Bill aims to bring a consolidated legal framework for the broadcasting sector and extend it to OTT (over-the-top media service) content, digital news, and current affairs as well.
- The Bill aims to make broadcasting more inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities.
- It promotes the use of subtitles, audio descriptors, and sign language.
- Key features of the Bill:
- A regulatory framework:
- The Bill essentially provides regulatory provisions for various broadcasting services under a single legislative framework.
- It seeks to replace the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995 and other policy guidelines currently governing the broadcasting sector in India.
- Extension of regulation to other areas:
- The Bill extends its regulatory purview to encompass broadcasting OTT content, digital news and current affairs currently regulated through the IT Act, 2000.
- It also includes provisions for emerging broadcasting technologies.
- The Bill provides comprehensive definitions for contemporary broadcasting terms along with other important technical terms to be defined in the statute for the first time.
- Various committees and codes:
- It introduces ‘Content evaluation committees’ for self-regulation and ‘Broadcast Advisory Council’ to advise the central government on programme code and advertisement code violations.
- The Bill provides statutory penalties like advisory, warning, censure, or monetary penalties, for operators and broadcasters.
- Provision for imprisonment and/or fines is also there, but only for very serious offences, such as obtaining registration with a false affidavit.
- Monetary penalties and fines are linked to the financial capacity of the entity, taking into account their investment and turnover to ensure fairness and equity.
- Disability Grievance officer:
- The Bill has a provision for appointing a Disability Grievance officer.
- Infrastructure sharing:
- It also has provisions for infrastructure sharing among broadcasting network operators and carriage of platform services.
- Right of Way provision:
- The Bill streamlines the ‘Right of Way’ section to address relocation and alterations more efficiently, and establishes a structured dispute resolution mechanism.
- A regulatory framework:
Topic 3 : Community rights and forest conservation
Why in news: The Forest Conservation Amendment Act of 2023 has received limited attention and little discussion about its impact on forests and its inhabitants.
The new amendment to the Act:
- Aims and purpose of the amendment:
- The amendment primarily aims to tackle the critical issues of climate change and deforestation’s adverse effects, focusing on effective management and afforestation.
- The law aims to determine how forests can be utilised for economic gain, and the manner in which it seeks to achieve this goal is outlined in the legislation.
- The primary method used to achieve this objective involves removing forests from the law’s jurisdiction, thereby facilitating various forms of economic exploitation.
- Applicability of the law:
- As per the amendment, the forest law will now apply exclusively to areas categorised under the 1927 Forest Act and those designated as such on or after October 25, 1980.
- The Act will not be applicable to forests that were converted for non-forest use on or after December 12, 1996 and land which falls under 100 kilometres from the China and Pakistan border where the central government can build linear projects.
- Provision for security infrastructure:
- To establish security infrastructure and facilities for surveillance, the central government is authorised to construct security measures in areas up to ten hectares.
- This provision also applies to areas (up to five hectares) which are designated as vulnerable.
- Within these regions, the government, with the necessary approvals, can implement security protocols as described above.
- Initiatives like ecotourism, safari, environmental entertainment, and more may be implemented in these areas.
- The main objective of these initiatives is to improve the livelihoods of those reliant on forest resources, a goal that has drawn criticism from tribal communities and human rights activists.
Need for the amendment:
- The Godavarman Thirumulkpad case, a prominent legal dispute that came before the Supreme Court in 1996, led to an interpretation of forest land in accordance with its ‘dictionary meaning’.
- Subsequently, all private forests were brought under the ambit of the 1980 law.
- This has been a subject of debate as it was argued that the legislation primarily aims to restrict forest land from being used for various non-forest purposes, including the conversion of land for large-scale industries.
- The law has faced significant opposition, especially from private landowners, individuals, and organisations involved in forest conservation, for its perceived adverse impact on the country’s industrial progress.
- The need to exclude forest land from the legal framework was mainly driven by the requirements of the industrial classes in the country.
- These factors came to the forefront again when the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill was introduced in Parliament, triggering extensive discussions and debates.
- The Parliament then referred the Bill to a 31-member Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC).
Recommendation of JPC:
- Of the 31-member JPC addressing the issue, only six individuals were from the opposition.
- Therefore, the Bill successfully passed in both houses of Parliament without any substantial debates or discussions.
- There have been no collaborative discussions with the southern States concerning matters related to their specific geographical locations.
- A few days after the Act was enacted, the Odisha government revoked the “deemed forest” status in the State but had to later cancel the order due to public outrage and cited that it is waiting for detailed rules and guidelines from the concerned Central Ministry.
- If the government were to remove the forests from the purview of the Forest Conservation Act, it would effectively obstruct indigenous communities from asserting their rights.
Stipulation of ‘prior consent’:
- The Forest Conservation Act underwent important amendments in 2016 and 2017, which stipulated that prior consent from the tribal grama sabha was mandatory for any alterations to forests for non-forest purposes.
- However, the recent revisions to the legislation have removed the necessity for such consent.
- Nevertheless, in this situation, State governments can proactively engage in specific activities within this framework through the inclusion of grama sabhas, particularly in matters of land acquisition for various purposes, by establishing State-level steering committees.
- But numerous State governments might hesitate on this aspect, as they hold a preconceived notion that Adivasi grama sabhas are ‘anti-development,’ and they fear that their decisions could hinder economically lucrative afforestation initiatives.
What is compensatory afforestation?
- Compensatory afforestation encompasses various projects and schemes that can be undertaken by both private individuals and organisations (including large corporations) for afforestation or reforestation purposes.
- The Compensatory Afforestation Act encountered significant challenges in the past, primarily due to ambiguities in the original legislation and shortage of available land.
- The goal of the new amendment is to streamline the process.
- The law mandates that for every parcel of land that is lost due to afforestation efforts, an equivalent amount of land must be afforested elsewhere.
- It does not specify the type of trees that should be planted, leaving room for discretion.
How does this affect the Forest Rights Act (FRA)?
- Lack of implementation:
- Despite the initial enthusiasm, it appears that both the Central and State governments have become less enthusiastic about implementing the FRA in their States.
- Weakening of state authority:
- Many consider the Act as an impediment to convert forest land for non-forest purposes.
- The State government and its bureaucracy hold the view that granting community rights under the FRA could weaken the State’s authority over the forest.
- They anticipate potential legal challenges to any such endeavours.
- Endangers rights of adivasis:
- To navigate the above situation, the government has opted to reduce or dilute the extent of forest areas, rather than amend the FRA, thereby limiting the potential for additional Adivasi claims.
- The amendment also fails to address the growing issue of human-animal conflicts in forest areas, particularly in the Adivasi hamlets of the Western Ghats region.
- This conflict not only endangers the livelihoods of the Adivasis but also poses a threat to wildlife.
- Afforestation vs forest governance:
- The concept of afforestation, which offers considerable financial incentives to private individuals and institutions for afforestation projects, fundamentally clashes with the idea of forest governance.
- It contradicts the concept of decentralised forest governance as forests in the country fall under the concurrent list.
- Such governance practices are against the spirit of federal norms.
- Problem with strategic linear projects:
- Defining strategic linear projects becomes exceptionally complex and vague.
- Unlike external security threats like border disputes and cross-border skirmishes, internal environmental security should also be considered a significant concern, especially in States that consistently face natural disasters.
- Regrettably, this priority is not guaranteed.Topic 4 : Ransomware attack on Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
Why in news: The US arm of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) was hit by a ransomware attack that minimally disrupted trades in the US Treasury market.
1. What is ICBC?
- ICBC is a Chinese state-owned commercial bank, is China’s and the world’s largest lender in terms of assets (over $ 6 trillion).
- It is one of the most profitable companies in the world.
- It is also the 3rd largest bank in the world (behind JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America) by market capitalization, at $ 194.57 billion.
What are ransomware attacks?
- Ransomware is a type of malicious software (commonly referred to as malware) that either blocks access to, or threatens to publish sensitive data until the victim pays a ransom fee to the attacker.
- It is a type of a cyber attack that has become increasingly popular among bad actors in recent years.
What is Lockbit 3.0?
- LockBit 3.0 was created by Lockbit, a group which effectively sells its malware bad actors on the dark web.
- Lockbit 3.0 is the most popular strain of ransomware, accounting for around 28 per cent of all known attacks from July 2022 to June 2023.
- LockBit actors have executed over 1,400 attacks against victims in the United States and around the world, issuing over $100 million in ransom demands.
- It is said to have Russian origins, though this has never been confirmed.
Significance of the recent attack:
- Successful cyberattacks on banks are rare since the financial industry is extremely well protected, with serious investment in cybersecurity and segmented operations to discourage theft.
- Thus, this particular attack is somewhat unprecedented, even though it is the latest in a string of ransomware attacks in the recent past.
- Given the salience of ICBC in the global financial system, such an attack could have had huge consequences.
- Some market participants did say that trades going through ICBC were not settled due to the attack and thus affected market liquidity.Topic 5 : GPS tracker
Why in news: Recently, a prisoner in Jammu and Kashmir was released on bail after he was tagged with a Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking device to monitor his movements.
What is a GPS tracker:
- This is the first time in the country that a GPS tracker has been put to such use.
- A GPS tracker is a small, wearable device like the GPS collars that have long been used to monitor the movements of animals.
- The device provides the exact location of the wearer at all times, and allows law enforcement and security agencies to monitor his/ her movement in real time.
- The device is tamper-proof, and any attempt at tampering with it sets off an alarm.
- It can also not be removed by the wearer or any unauthorised person without damaging it.
- The tracker can be put on the ankle or arm of a person.
- Thus, there are GPS anklets and GPS bracelets.
Use of such devices:
- On pets and wild animals:
- GPS devices are very common these days, and some people put them on pets.
- The movements of wild animals such as rogue elephants in Kerala or the cheetahs in Kuno are monitored using these devices.
- On vehicles:
- Many new automobiles are equipped with trackers to ensure they can be traced if stolen.
What is the legal position on the use of this technology in this way?
- Backers of the use of GPS trackers argue they can make it a little easier to get bail under the stringent UAPA, and give police the confidence to not oppose bail.
- Rights activists say tracking a human being is a violation of their fundamental right to privacy.
- While the state seeks to maintain public security by tagging a person with a GPS tracker, the fundamental rights of the people fitted with this device can’t be taken away.
- The Supreme Court in ‘Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India’ (1978) ruled that the right to life includes the right to human dignity.
- Since surveillance raises concerns of over-regulation and infringement of human rights, it is necessary to have a system of informed consent and procedures to deal with unethical and illegal practices.Topic 6 : Global TB Report 2023
Why in news: India accounts for 27 per cent of the total TB cases in the world, according to the recently released Global TB Report 2023 by the World Health Organisation.
Key findings of the report:
- The report noted two positive trends for India.
- There was an increase in reporting of TB cases, crossing even the pre-pandemic high with 24.2 lakh cases in 2022.
- The coverage of treatment for the infection increased to 80%.
- Mortality in India:
- A sudden drop in mortality due to TB was noted in the 2023 report.
- This was owing to the WHO report accepting India’s Sample Registration System dataset as the basis for the calculations instead of the Global Burden of Disease report.
- With the change in dataset, India’s TB mortality dropped from 4.94 lakhs in 2021 to 3.31 lakhs in 2022.
- This resulted in a reduction in India’s contribution towards global mortality from 36 per cent in the previous years to 26 per cent in 2022.
- Prevalence of TB in India:
- Nearly 28.2 lakh people got TB in India in 2022, meaning one person gets TB every 11 seconds in India.
- India’s contribution to the global burden is 27%, which is down one percentage point from the previous year’s 28%.
- Improvement in reporting of cases:
- There has been an increase in reporting of TB cases.
- The estimated number of cases in a country is based on a mathematical model, and there is a gap between that and the number of people who actually get diagnosed and put on treatment in a country.
- The Global TB report 2023 shows that reporting of cases has improved in India, going beyond the pre-pandemic levels.
- This is despite the fact that India, along with Indonesia and the Philippines, accounted for 67 per cent decline in reporting of TB cases globally during the pandemic.
- India reported 24.2 lakh cases in 2022 similar to the 24.04 lakh cases reported during 2019.
- A national survey on TB:
- The report also noted that India was the only country to have completed a National TB prevalence survey since 2019.
- The survey was started in 2019, interrupted for several months in 2020 and then completed in 2021.
- Results from this survey were a key input to the estimates of TB incidence in India published in this report.
- Coverage of TB treatment in India:
- The report acknowledged an increase in coverage of TB treatment in India, increasing by 19 per cent over the previous year.
- In fact, India was among only four countries among the 30 high-burden countries in the world that were able to achieve more than 80 per cent treatment coverage.
- Globally, the treatment coverage in 2022 reached the pre-pandemic levels of 70%.
- Government initiatives:
- India has undertaken several initiatives towards TB elimination including:
- active case finding,
- scaling up of more accurate molecular testing to block level,
- screening services made available through the health and wellness centres, and
- engagement of the private sector as well.
- The Ni-kshay Mitra where people provide additional nutritional support to TB patients has also resulted in the adoption of over 11 lakh TB patients.
- This support is in addition to government’s R500 nutritional support.
- India has undertaken several initiatives towards TB elimination including:
India’s TB elimination target:
- India has set a target of 2025 for eliminating TB in the country.
- The national strategic plan 2017-2025 sets the target of no more than 44 new TB cases per lakh population by 2025.
- The 2023 report pegs this number at 199 cases per lakh.
- Achieving this target is a big task as the plan had envisaged an incidence of only 77 cases per lakh population by 2023.
- The programme also aims to reduce the mortality to 3 deaths per lakh population by 2025.
- Even with the WHO accepting the lowered estimates for India, this stands at 23 per lakh population.
|Pre-pandemic (TB Report 2020)
|Previous TB Report 2022
|Present TB Report 2023
|Estimated TB cases
|Percentage of global burden
|Percentage of global deaths
|Percentage of global drug-resistant TB
- Tuberculosis is a disease caused by infection with the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
- The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain.
- Two TB-related conditions exist:
- Latent TB.
- You have a TB infection, but the bacteria in your body are inactive and cause no symptoms.
- Latent TB, also called inactive TB or TB infection, isn’t contagious.
- Latent TB can turn into active TB.
- Active TB.
- Also called TB disease, this condition makes you sick and, in most cases, can spread to others.
- It can occur weeks or years after infection with the TB bacteria.
- Latent TB.
- Antibiotics are the mainstay treatment of TB.
- However, the bacteria has been known to become resistant and find a way to beat these antibiotics.
- Drug-resistant strains of TB have become a global concern.Topic 7 : Power of vote in two states
Why in news: There are 14 villages on the border of Maharashtra and Telangana who have right to vote in both the states.
- Amid the desolate hilly terrain between Jivti taluk of Chandrapur district in Maharashtra and Kerameri mandal in Kumuram Bheem Asifabad district in Telangana are 14 villages in the Parandoli and Anthapur gram panchayats.
- Here, a population of nearly 5,000 have the power of the vote in both Maharashtra and Telangana.
- Both gram panchayats, dependent on the Maharashtra and Telangana governments, and the residents participate in almost all elections on both sides.
- These villages are predominantly occupied by Marathi-speaking Scheduled Caste (SC) communities.
- They exercise their voting right owing to an unresolved boundary dispute.
- The population includes Lambada tribespeople and Muslims.
- People in the 14 villages draw benefits of social welfare schemes from both the States.
- These villages have:
- two Anganwadi centres,
- two primary healthcare centres,
- two water tanks, and
- two schools (Marathi- and Telugu-medium) run by the two State governments.
- In a country where jobs are sparse, people have two MGNREGS job cards.
- Each village even has two sarpanches.
A history of separation
- The issue dates back to the unresolved tensions that arose during the linguistic reorganisation of States in 1956.
- This dispute led to inter-State tensions, more so when the Andhra Pradesh government set up polling stations in these villages for the first time during the 1989 election.
- Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh on June 2, 2014.
- It was further escalated in 1999 when the Andhra Pradesh High Court ruled that the villages be part of the Telugu State.
- Maharashtra contested this decision in the Supreme Court, leading to a debate about dual voting, though the matter remained unresolved as elections were held separately in Chandrapur (in Maharashtra) and the united Adilabad district (in undivided A.P.) in 2004.Topic 8 : The Madigas
Why in news: Prime Minister of India announced the constitution of a committee soon to empower the Dalit communities and ensure justice for the Madiga community.
- The Madigas have been fighting for their proportional quota within the SC reservation for about three decades.
- They constitute around 60% of the SC population in Telangana.
About the Madigas:
- Madiga is a Telugu caste and mainly live in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, with a small minority in Tamil Nadu.
- Madigas are historically associated with the work of tannery, leatherwork and small handicrafts.
- Today, most are agricultural labourers.
- They are categorized as a Scheduled Caste by the Government of India.
- In 2009, the term “Arunthathiyar” in Tamil Nadu was officially designated as an umbrella term encompassing various communities, including Arunthathiyar, Chakkiliyan, Madari, Madiga, Pagadai, Thoti and Adi Andhra.
- While the majority of Madigas adhere to traditional practices within their villages in Rayalaseema and Telangana, most of those residing in Coastal Andhra have embraced Protestant Christianity.