Daily Current Affairs for UPSC – 18th August 2023

GS 1

Addressing housing shortage in urban areas requires urgent, concerted efforts

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-17/th_delhi/articleGQNBKKBNC-3942128.ece

Context: The announcement of a new scheme by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to assist urban poor in building houses signifies a change in government approach towards addressing urban housing shortages.

Relevance: GS 1 Urbanisation

Shift in Stance:

  • Earlier stance was that no new housing scheme was planned after extending PMAY-U till December 2024.
  • Appraisal of PMAY-U might have prompted the change.
  • Shows that achieving “housing for all” is still distant.

Progress of PMAY-U:

  • Over 8 years, only about 76.25 lakh out of 1.19 crore sanctioned houses completed or handed over.
  • Central assistance: ₹1.49 lakh crore; Centre’s share: 24.4%, States and urban local bodies: 16%, rest (60%) from beneficiaries.
  • Estimated investment: ₹8.31 lakh crore for 1.23 crore houses; beneficiaries contribute ₹4.95 lakh crore.
  • Proposed scheme aims to reduce beneficiary share to 40% due to low income.

Parliamentary Committee Recommendations:

  • Government should consider committee suggestions in new scheme.
  • Flexible assistance instead of uniform fixed assistance based on factors like topography.
  • Investigate reasons for poor house quality and unoccupancy.
  • Collaborative discussions with State governments, urban planning bodies, professionals, financial institutions, and activists needed.

Enhancing Urban Housing Success:

  • Factors affecting urban housing success: high land costs, floor space index restrictions, multiple certifications.
  • Central government-organized discussions crucial.
  • Objective of new scheme: to create a comprehensive and fool-proof plan to make “housing for all” a tangible reality.

SC unveils handbook to eliminate gender stereotypes from law

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/to-remove-gender-stereotypes-from-the-law-a-new-supreme-court-handbook/article67201169.ece

Context: The Supreme Court has released a 30-page handbook aiming to address gender-unjust language in Indian courts.

Relevance: GS -1 Social issues / GS -2 Judiciary

Purpose and Impact:

  • Handbook intends to free the judiciary and legal community from using gender stereotypical language in judgments, orders, and pleadings.
  • Chief Justice of India, D.Y. Chandrachud, anticipates it as a significant step towards a more equitable society.

Addressing Stereotypes:

  • Handbook tackles predetermined stereotypes about women’s inherent characteristics.
  • One stereotype: portraying women as overly emotional, illogical, and incapable of making decisions.
  • Handbook counters this, emphasizing that gender doesn’t influence one’s capacity for rational thinking.

Impact on Judicial Assessment:

  • Addresses assumptions about a woman’s character based on her choices and history.
  • These assumptions can affect how the judiciary perceives her actions and statements, especially in cases involving sexual violence.
  • Stereotypes can undermine the significance of consent in sexual relationships.

Distorted Law and Constitutional Ethos:

  • Reliance on gender stereotypes distorts the application of law to women.
  • Even when stereotypes don’t change case outcomes, they can reinforce ideas against constitutional principles.
  • Language’s critical role in law is highlighted; words convey legal values and intentions to society.

Chief Justice’s Explanation:

  • Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud explains that the language a judge uses not only reflects their interpretation of the law but also their perception of society.
  • Words are a conduit for conveying legal values and societal norms.

GS 2

Why is Bihar’s caste-based survey facing legal challenges?

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-17/th_delhi/articleGQNBKKBM4-3942143.ece

Context: Supreme Court to hear petitions challenging Patna High Court’s support for Bihar government’s ongoing caste survey.

Relevance: GS Paper – 1 Population and Associated Issues

  • Caste-based survey aims to gather socio-economic data for better policy-making for disadvantaged groups.

Caste Survey Overview:

  • Bihar government initiated a two-phase caste survey to collect detailed socio-economic information.
  • Objective is to create improved government policies for marginalized communities.
  • Survey launched on January 7, halted on May 4 due to HC stay order.
  • Recent HC verdict allowed the survey to resume in the second phase.

Need for Caste Census:

  • Regular Census doesn’t record caste data except for Scheduled Castes (SCs).
  • Lack of such data results in no proper estimate of OBC and various OBC sub-groups’ populations.
  • Union government rejects socio-economic caste census as administratively difficult.
  • 2011 Socio-Economic and Caste Census data flawed and not made public.

Political Implications:

  • Seen as Bihar government’s effort to counter BJP’s Hindutva politics with Mandal politics revival.
  • Mandal Commission’s OBC reservation recommendation implemented in 1992.
  • Opposition parties demand caste census to streamline welfare policies.

Challenges and Opposition:

  • Petitions claim Bihar government’s survey is unconstitutional as only Centre can conduct a census.
  • State’s authority to appoint District Magistrates and collect data challenged.
  • HC verdict criticized for allowing data collection under executive order violating privacy rights.
  • HC stated states can’t wait for Centre to conduct caste census, dismissed privacy concerns.

Centre and WHO to launch Global Initiative on Digital Health

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-17/th_delhi/articleGGSBKJSVQ-3942174.ece

Context: India and the World Health Organization (WHO) are launching the Global Initiative on Digital Health during the G-20 summit in Gandhinagar.

Relevance: GS -2 Health

  • The initiative aims to enhance data convergence, health platform interface, and investments in the digital health sector worldwide.
  • Lav Agarwal, Additional Secretary of the Health Ministry, stated that India and WHO are leading the effort to establish a “network of networks approach” for interim medical countermeasures (MCM) before the next health emergency.
  • The initiative seeks to create a global digital platform with components such as an investment tracker, ask tracker (to determine product and service needs), and a library of existing digital health platforms.
  • The collaboration has secured funding from global partners.

Digital Health Innovations and Universal Healthcare Convergence

  • Digital health solutions and innovations are expected to contribute to universal health convergence and enhance healthcare service delivery.

Data Security and Ownership

  • India’s data security policy revolves around citizens owning their data.
  • The global data sharing platform will not disclose user data but will focus on sharing analyses and working on data interoperability.

Climate and Health Initiative

  • Efforts are being made to garner support for establishing a Climate and Health Initiative in India.
  • The initiative will be a collaboration between India, the Asian Development Bank, and other partners.

Patient and Healthcare Workforce Mobility Portal

  • Plans are underway to launch a portal to facilitate patient and healthcare workforce mobility.

GS 3

Understanding the MoEFCC’s U-turn

Context: Ministry’s Reversal on Integrated Regional Offices and Reorganisation in Environmental Agencies

Relevance: GS 3 Environment

Initial Plan for Integrated Regional Offices and Reorganization

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) initially announced a plan to establish integrated regional offices by merging key organizations including the Forest Survey of India (FSI), the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).
  • This move was criticized for potentially weakening these environmental agencies, rendering them “toothless.”
  • The proposal raised concerns over the loss of independence, administrative confusion, and interference in decision-making for these bodies.

Ministry’s Rationale and Opposition

  • The MoEFCC justified the reorganization for “ease of doing business” but faced opposition, particularly from the NTCA.
  • The NTCA expressed concerns about administrative chaos, loss of focus, and undue interference in their duties and responsibilities.
  • The Karnataka High Court received a petition against the reorganization, arguing that merging entities and authorities was legally impermissible. The MoEFCC clarified that the notification didn’t constitute a merger but aimed to have the authorities function under one roof in regional offices.

Ministry’s Decision to Drop the Merger Plan

  • The Ministry dropped the merger plan more than two years later, likely due to technical and administrative challenges.
  • Environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta stated that the initial idea was poorly thought out and designed to fail.

New Notification and Reorganization Proposal

  • The same notification also proposes to reorganize existing regional offices, drawing criticism for a lack of objective criteria in the process.
  • For instance, the proposed jurisdiction of the Bengaluru regional office covers diverse geographic and ecological characteristics across Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, and Lakshadweep.

Concerns over Project Mergers

  • The government’s announcement to merge Project Tiger and Project Elephant raised concerns about undermining the autonomy of the NTCA and potential implications for Project Elephant due to its lack of legal backing.
  • Critics noted decisions to merge projects were made without discussions within the wildlife division of the MoEFCC.

Calls for Strengthening Environmental Monitoring

  • Experts stress the need for dedicated and disintegrated efforts to strengthen environmental monitoring functions.
  • The widened roles of regional offices require additional funding and infrastructural support, but it’s unclear if such support has been provided.
  • Environmental law and policy researcher Kanchi Kohli suggests reviewing whether these offices can prioritize actions without disproportionately favoring regulatory outcomes, upholding environmental protection without compromising social justice.

Decentralization and Accessibility

  • Experts emphasize the importance of decentralized infrastructure to enhance accessibility to regulators and potentially improve legal enforcement.


UGC to standardise PG courses in study of manuscripts

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-17/th_delhi/articleGGSBKJT00-3942171.ece

Context: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has established a panel to create a model syllabus for courses in manuscriptology and paleography to be implemented in colleges and universities across India.

Purpose and Goals of the Committee

  • The UGC’s decision to form this committee aligns with the National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020.
  • The committee’s primary objective is to standardize postgraduate diploma courses in manuscriptology and paleography in various colleges and universities across the country.
  • The committee is tasked with developing a comprehensive model syllabus for these subjects. This syllabus can be offered either as specializations or open electives for students across different branches of study.

Overview of Manuscript Holdings

  • The National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) sent a proposal to the UGC based on the National Education Policy’s guidelines.
  • India possesses approximately 10 million manuscripts, encompassing 80 ancient scripts.
  • Among these manuscripts, 75% are written in Sanskrit, while the remaining 25% are in regional languages.

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