Topic 1 : Forced displacement and human shields
Why in news: United States President accused Palestinian militant group Hamas of using innocent Palestinians as human shields.
What are human shields?
- The term ‘human shields’ is used in International humanitarian law (IHL) with respect to civilians or other protected persons, whose presence or movement is aimed, or used to render military targets immune from military operations.
- Protected persons do not literally have to be used as a protective shield from, say against a hail of bullets, to be deemed as human shields.
- Even forcing them to remain near military targets or placing military targets in or adjacent to the same buildings as civilians is constituted as using human shields.
- Other than civilians, who constitutes protected persons in war?
- The sick,
- shipwrecked not taking part in hostilities,
- prisoners of war and
- other detained personsWhat is international humanitarian law (IHL)?
- International humanitarian law (IHL) is a set of rules that seeks, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict.
- It protects persons who are not, or are no longer, directly or actively participating in hostilities, and imposes limits on the means and methods of warfare.
- IHL is also known as “the law of war” or “the law of armed conflict“.
- Sources of international law include:
- international agreements (the Geneva Conventions),
- customary international law,
- general principles of nations, and
- case law.
- Serious violations of international humanitarian law are called war crimes.
How does IHL view human shields?
- The use of human shields is considered a war crime and is banned as per the IHL.
- It is also prohibited to target/attack human shields.
- There’s only one way in which a civilian [or any protected person] can lose immunity from attack and that is direct participation in hostilities.
- Situation in Gaza:
- In the case of Gaza, things are complicated by the population density.
- There is simply no place in the besieged strip for Hamas combatants to exist without putting civilians in danger.
- Regardless of whether Hamas intentionally uses civilian homes for military purposes, or does it simply out of necessity, it would not be legal for Israel to attack those targets.
What is forced displacement?
- Under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, ordering the displacement of the civilian population for reasons related to the conflict, unless the security of the civilians involved or imperative military reasons so demand constitutes forcible displacement.
IHL and forced displacement
- The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Norwegian Refugee Council described the order to forcibly transfer civilians as unlawful.
- While warning civilians and non-combatants of legitimate military operations that may endanger them is in fact deemed necessary as far as possible, it is illegal to threaten people to leave.
- The phrase absent of any guaranteesof safety or return is crucial here.
- Any displacement of civilians must be ‘temporary’, till the conflict ends, and only for their benefit.
- The difference between evacuation and forced transfer depended on whether the act would actually benefit the security of the civilians.Topic 2 : How MPs ask questions in Lok Sabha
Why in news: An MP said she welcomes answering questions from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee pertaining to ‘cash for query’ allegations against her.
The Question Hour:
- When in session, Lok Sabha generally starts with Question Hour.
- It is a one hour time period provided to MPs to ask questions of ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
- The procedure for raising questions is governed by the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha and the Directions by the Speaker, Lok Sabha.
What is the procedure for raising the questions?
- Giving notice:
- To ask a question, an MP has to first give a notice addressed to the lower house’s Secretary-General, intimating their intention to ask a question.
- The notice usually contains the text of the question, the official designation of the Minister to whom the question is addressed, the date on which the answer is desired, and the order of preference, in case the MP tables more than one notice of questions for the same day.
- A Member is allowed to give not more than five notices of questions, both for oral and written answers, in all, for any day.
- Usually, the period of notice of a question isn’t less than 15 days.
- There are two ways through which MPs can submit the notices of their questions:
- First, through an online ‘Member’s Portal’, where they have to enter their ID and password to get access.
- Second, through the printed forms available in the Parliamentary Notice Office.
- Examination by the Speaker:
- The next stage is when the Speaker of Lok Sabha examines the notices of the questions in the light of the laid out rules.
- It is the Speaker, who decides if a question, or a part thereof, is or isn’t admissible.
Conditions for the admissibility of questions
- Questions shall not ordinarily contain more than 150 words.
- They shouldn’t contain arguments, defamatory statements, refer to the character or conduct of any person except in their official or public capacity.
- Queries raising larger issues of policy are not allowed, for it is not possible to enunciate policies within the limited compass of an answer to a question.
- A question isn’t admissible if its subject matter is pending judgment before any court of law or any other tribunal or body set up under law or is under consideration before a Parliamentary Committee.
- A query also can’t seek information on matters which may weaken the unity and integrity of the country.
Different types of questions
- There are four different types of questions:
- A starred question is asked by an MP and answered orally by the Minister-in-charge.
- Each MP is allowed to ask one starred question per day.
- Starred questions have to be submitted at least 15 days in advance (so that the Minister-in-charge has the time to prepare the answers) and only 20 questions can be listed for oral answers on a day.
- When a question is answered orally, supplementary questions can be asked thereon.
- An unstarred question receives a written reply from the Ministry.
- These also need to be submitted at least 15 days in advance.
- Only 230 questions can be listed for written answers in a day.
- Unlike starred questions, unstarred questions don’t permit any follow-up questions.
- While starred questions are better suited to inquire about the government’s views on issues and its policy inclination, unstarred questions are more conducive for getting answers to queries related to data or information.
- Short-notice questions:
- Short notice questions are ones pertaining to a matter of urgent public importance.
- They can be asked with less than 10 days’ notice, with reasons for the short notice.
- Like a starred question, they are answered orally, followed by supplementary questions.
- Questions addressed to private Members:
- The question to a private Member is addressed to the MP themselves.
- It is asked when the subject matter pertains to any Bill, Resolution or any matter relating to the Business of the House for which that MP is responsible.
Significance of raising questions
- Asking questions is an inherent and unfettered parliamentary right of an MP.
- The exercise is meant to act as a parliamentary device to practise legislative control over executive actions.
- It can be used to get information on:
- aspects of administration and government activity,
- criticise government policies and schemes,
- throw light on government lapses, and
- push ministers to take substantive steps for the common good.
- On the other hand, the government can use these questions to gauge public reaction to their policies and administration.
- At times, questions lead to the formation of a parliamentary commission, a court of enquiry or even the enactment of a legislature.Topic 3 : Meri Maati, Mera Desh
Why in news: As part of ‘Meri Maati, Mera Desh’, Railways plans special trains
- The Indian Railways will operate special trains to transport volunteers carrying mitti (soil) from State capitals and other major stations across the country to reach New Delhi.
- The initiative is part of the ‘Meri Maati Mera Desh’ [My soil, my country] campaign.
- The campaign is being organised by the Ministry of Culture as a tribute to the Veers and Veeranganas [bravehearts] who have made the supreme sacrifice for the country.
- Around 20,000 volunteers with kalash (urn) containing the soil in their possession will reach Delhi to participate in events culminating in the year-long Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.
- Volunteers would collect the soil from every household as a mark of respect to the people who had sacrificed their lives for the nation.
- In cases where the soil was not available, people can contribute a grain of rice.
- The soil that gets collected would be used in the ‘Amrit Vatika’, a special garden being created in Delhi along with an ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ memorial.
- To facilitate the movement of the volunteers, the Ministry of Railways would operate special ‘Amrit Kalash Yatri’ trains.Topic 4 : Dhordo in United Nations World Tourism Organization’s list
Why in news: Dhordo in Gujarat made it to the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) best villages list.
- The UNWTO is a United Nations agency focusing on responsible tourism.
- These villages have been chosen for how they’re growing visitor numbers without ruining what it is the visitors are coming to see.
- The accolade recognizes rural destinations that are embracing tourism as a driver of development and new opportunities for jobs and income, while preserving and promoting community-based values and products.
- The initiative also recognizes villages for their commitment to innovation and sustainability in all its aspects – economic, social and environmental.
- It also recognizes the focus on developing tourism in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- A grand total of 32 villages across the globe made the list.
- There’s no ranking – instead, the destinations are listed alphabetically by country.
- Each country was allowed to submit up to three villages for consideration – and only Spain succeeded in qualifying all three of its villages.
- Called the “Best Tourism Villages” initiative, while enacting sustainable tourism, and reducing emissions and waste the program aims to:
- combat rural depopulation,
- advance gender equality,
- infrastructure and investment, and
- reduce regional income and development inequality.Topic 5 : Impact of construction dust
Why in news: Mega infrastructure projects have draped Mumbai city with construction dust at a scale unprecedented in sweep and volume.
- Record levels of airborne particulate matter, PM2.5 (fine particles that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter) and PM10 (diameter of 10 microns or less) have been deteted that together make up a lethal cocktail of pollutants which can be inhaled.
- What it consists:
- Construction dust throws up particulate matter whose composition is a mixture of liquid and solid elements that include cement, sand, stone, wood, chemicals, and even metal.
- Cement use releases chemical irritants like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which irritate the respiratory tract.
- Studies have also shown that cement production may incorporate heavy metals like lead, cadmium and chromium, and their inhalation is also behind severe health problems, including neurological disorders, kidney damage, and cancer.
- Cement handling, common to all construction, generates PM2.5 and PM10 that can deeply penetrate the respiratory system.
- The finer PM2.5 can travel to and embed in deeper parts of the lungs while PM10 usually deposits on the larger airways of the lung’s upper region.
- Inhaling these particles can cause lung irritation, inflammation, and worsen pre-existing conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), resulting in symptoms like continuous coughing and wheezing.
- Extended exposure can result in throat irritation, coughing, and breathlessness, potentially contributing to or worsening respiratory diseases
- Exposure to PM2.5
- Long-term (months to years) exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to premature death, particularly in people who have chronic heart or lung diseases, and reduced lung function growth in children.
- Exposure to PM 10
- The effects of long-term exposure to PM10 are less clear, although several studies suggest a link between long-term PM10 exposure and respiratory diseases.
- Effects on construction workers:
- Construction workers are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of airborne particles from construction activities.
- Prolonged exposure to construction dust can result in occupational diseases such as silicosis, a debilitating lung condition.
- Fine dust particles can enter the bloodstream, increasing the risk of heart and lung diseases in workers.
- Proper equipment:
- Adequate workplace safety measures, including proper personal protective equipment and dust control, are essential to safeguard the health of those in the construction industry while mitigating the air pollution generated.
- As the impact of construction dust is quite significant on health, experts call for more awareness, being mindful while carrying out construction work, and being careful while handling debris.
- Measures by government:
- Besides stringent implementation of guidelines, civic bodies must also take measures to recycle the waste material and debris from the construction sites as well as take measures to reuse the recycled debris again on construction sites.
- The municipal corporation needs to ensure that it develops a strong policy to control and mitigate dust.
- Segregation of wase:
- A lot of waste is generated during construction and demolition work, which must be disposed of carefully.
- A critical aspect is the segregation of this waste followed by transporting it to the recycling plants.
- This recycled waste can again be used for construction work.Topic 6 : Ajinomoto
Why in news: While MSG has been a subject of controversy over the years, it’s important to understand that it is generally recognised as safe when consumed in moderate amounts by most people.
What is Ajinomoto?
- Ajinomoto is a brand name for monosodium glutamate (MSG), a common food additive used to enhance the flavour of foods.
- It is a umami-inducing ingredient and can be used moderately for flavour.
- MSG is a flavour enhancer that adds the umami taste to food, which is often described as a savoury, meaty, or brothy flavour.
Why is it used in cuisines?
- MSG is primarily used to enhance the umami or savoury taste of foods.
- It can make dishes taste more flavourful and appealing, which is why it’s commonly used in many cuisines.
- Ajinomoto is widely used in processed foods, restaurant cuisine, and fast-food items.
- Some individuals claim to experience symptoms like headaches, sweating, and chest pain after consuming foods containing MSG.
- This is sometimes referred to as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.
- Some individuals may be sensitive to high doses of MSG or have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to its effects.
- Ajinomoto is rich in sodium, a component of salt.
- Overconsumption of sodium can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems, making it a concern for individuals with hypertension or those at risk of heart disease.
How to keep a tab on MSG consumption?
- It’s essential to be aware of the source of MSG in your food.
- Natural food sources of glutamate, such as tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and mushrooms, also contain glutamate, and these can be part of a balanced diet.
- A diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods is generally considered healthier than relying on highly processed foods that often contain added MSG for flavour enhancement.
- Ajinomoto itself offers no nutritional value.
- It is merely an artificial flavour enhancer and should not be relied upon as a source of nutrition.
- Overreliance on such additives can detract from the consumption of more nutritious whole foods
- Ajinomoto or MSG can be used in your cooking as long as it’s done in moderation.Topic 7 : Fallout of Israel-Palestine conflict on India
Why in news: The Israel-Hamas war has stoked concerns about its impact over the global market including the Indian economy.
- Israel being India’s strategic trade partner is involved with exporting rough diamonds, cut and polished diamonds, electronics and telecom components and similarly India’s key exports to Israel are gems and jewellery besides cut and polished diamonds.
- Israel also supplies the most military equipment to India, with the military business between the two countries worth around $2.1 billion.
- Israel has been among the top four arms suppliers to India for almost two decades now.
- India became the largest arms customer of Israel with sales worth US$715 million.
India’s Stand and Relations with Israel
- In 1992, the trade between India and Israel stood at $200 million.
- In 2023, and the trade volume has surged to a staggering $10.1 billion, making Israel one of India’s top trade partners in Asia and the 7th largest globally.
- Approximately 300 Israeli companies have invested in India, indicating the robust economic ties between the two nations.
- India primarily exports diamonds, precious metals, chemical products, textiles, refined petroleum, broadcasting equipment, and more to Israel.
- India is the 3rd largest trade partner for Israel in Asia, highlighting the significance of their economic partnership.
India Israel trade
- India is Israel’s tenth largest trade partner overall, and Israel’s third largest trade partner in Asia after China and Hong Kong.
- Official figures show that in the financial year 2022-23 India’s merchandise exports to Israel stood at $8.4 billion, while imports were $2.3 billion.
- If Israel will handle the war itself, then there can be a negligible impact on the global economy.
- But if it sees the involvement of more countries including Iran, a major oil producer, then it has the potential to disrupt the world trade and world economy.
- The ongoing war between Israel and Palestine is the third major blow for not just India but the global economy as a whole after the onset of Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 followed by Russia-Ukraine war in February 2022.
- Our trade with the entire CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) region is very nominal compared to our exports in GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).
- India’s exports with GCC are around 14 percent of our total exports and our imports with the GCC bilateral trade is over $240 billion
- However with Russia and CIS countries, it is not even $15 billion.
- If any of the Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other nations participate in the war then India’s ambitious plan to build India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC) may get delayed.
Impact of Israel-Hamas conflict on the Indian economy
- Impact on oil prices.
- India meets 85% of its oil needs through imports.
- A price spurt will leave the government little fiscal space for social welfare spending by inflating the import and fuel/fertiliser subsidy bills
- It will weaken the rupee by impacting the current account deficit.
- The overall impact can also hurt the GDP growth.
- Impact on India’s trade
- The Israel-Hamas conflict could potentially increase shipping costs and insurance premiums for Indian exporters, impacting bilateral trade and leading to disruptions in Israel’s exports to India.
- The primary concern is the financial burden on exporters, which may reduce their profit margins, though at this stage, the impact on trade volumes remains relatively limited.
- To safeguard Indian businesses from potential losses due to geopolitical uncertainties, India’s Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC) may introduce higher risk premiums for firms exporting to Israel.
- This is a standard risk management practice in regions facing increased instability.
- Impact on gems & jewellery
- Indian companies which cut and polish precious stones say if the conflict gets extended, it would bring down their profit margins.
- Total gems and jewellery trade between India and Israel stood at $2.04 billion in 2022-23 as against $2.8 billion in 2021-22.
- Israel’s war situation will further intensify the blow to the trade between Israel and India.
- Cut and polished diamonds constitute the highest exported commodity from India to that country. It is followed by lab-grown diamonds.
- From Israel, India mainly imports rough diamonds.
- The cutting and polishing industries in India — which has a 90% global market share in cutting and polishing natural diamonds — get the raw materials from Israel.
- This business is largely concentrated in Surat,.
Hit on 5G expansion
- Escalation of Israel’s war with Hamas could push up costs of imported 5G network gear by ₹2,000-2,500 crore initially and slow down rollouts of next-gen networks by India’s top telcos.
- A wider, long-drawn conflict could initially trigger around a 3-4% dip in the rupee versus the US dollar.
- Nearly 67% of telecom gear used in local phone networks is imported primarily from foreign vendors such as Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung.
- Such a scenario would also increase telcos’ foreign-debt-servicing costs and impact profitability in coming quarters as a sizeable chunk of the $7 billion-plus telecom sector debt is dollar-denominated, the people cited added.
Impact on corporates
- Global technology majors having offices in Israel could potentially move their business operations to India or other locations if the Israel-Hamas conflict escalates.
- Indian firms such as TCS and Wipro could also activate business contingency plans and shift operations to India.
- More than 500 global multinationals including Intel, Microsoft, and Google have offices in Israel.
- They may shift business functions to locations with similar time zones and talent capabilities as part of a business continuity plan if required.
- Apart from India, these firms could also look at destinations such as the Middle East or Eastern Europe.
- There are more than 300 investments from Israel in India mainly in the high-tech domain, agriculture and water.
- There is also a growing preference in India for Israeli companies in sectors such as renewable energy, water technologies, homeland security, and real estate in addition to traditional areas such as agriculture, and chemicals.
Impact on pharmaceuticals sector
- The Israel-Hamas conflict is threatening to disrupt the Indian pharmaceutical industry by hindering exports to several countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
- The UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain are among countries in the region that are major destinations for Indian pharma products.
- India’s exports amount to a billion dollars per year in these countries.
- A protracted Israeli-Palestinian war would impact flight services to these countries and subsequently hit pharma exports from India.
Home textiles & furnishings
- While Israel is a small market, exporters said that the margins are 10-15% higher than supplying to the US especially on cotton textiles as the country prefers natural fabric over synthetic and hence, competition from China is limited.
- A slowdown in the US, and the EU buying textiles from Pakistan and Bangladesh has left it with only Israel for short term growth and that is also in jeopardy.
- While Israel launches its counterattack, the question for India will be how much of a template could this serve to re-energise Pakistan-based terror groups, especially on the Kashmir issue.
- Drone attacks by Hamas have raised apprehensions in the Indian establishment about use of Chinese made drones by non-state actors along the Indo-Pakistan border.
- Escalating drone sightings along the India-Pakistan border and Kashmir’s Line of Control have raised significant concerns in power corridors in New Delhi
Impact on India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC)
- A key impact of Israel’s war could be on the proposed India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC).
- The IMEEC will comprise two separate corridors, the east corridor connecting India to the Arabian Gulf and the northern corridor connecting the Arabian Gulf to Europe.
- It will include a railway which will provide a reliable and cost-effective cross-border ship-to-rail transit network to supplement existing maritime and road transport routes
- It will enable goods and services to transit to, from, and between India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Europe.
- It will also include an electricity cable, a hydrogen pipeline and a high-speed data cable.
- The war will create differences between Israel and Arab countries which had been coming closer in recent times.
- The IMEEC project hinges on normalisation of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
- But Israel’s war in Gaza will alienate Saudi Arabia.
Impact on Stock Market
- Examining past Israel-Hamas conflicts and their impact on India’s stock market:
- In 2008, during a 22-day Israeli offensive in Gaza, Nifty dropped by 2.85%.
- In 2012, after Israel’s attack on Hamas’s military chief of staff, Nifty increased by approximately 4.98%.
- In 2014, following a seven-week war, Nifty rose by about 4.5%.
- In January 2023, when Gaza launched rocket fire on Israel, Nifty dipped by 2.50%.
- If the conflict remains confined to Israel, then there will be very little downside for India.
- New Delhi’s real fear is that the conflict may spread to other parts of West Asia and, apart from economic issues, have a serious impact on its relations with the Arab world.
- India has to balance its relations with Israel and the Arab countries if it wants to be considered a major player in the region.
- The world has to work towards resolving the Palestinian issue rather than ignoring it.
- History has shown that whenever there is a major outbreak of conflict, there is a doubling of effort to bring lasting peace.
- The aftermath of the 1973 war saw the Israel-Egypt accord.
- The first Intifada launched in 1987 resulted in the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995.
- The accords, which proposed a step-by-step process towards a two-state solution, had failed because Israel believed that no Palestine leader or group, including Hamas, could guarantee peace even after Israel made these territorial concessions.
- Now this third major conflict may well see the world work towards a settlement that has eluded Israel and Palestine for the past 75 years.