Daily Current Affairs for UPSC – 31st August 2023

GS 1

Cyclone frequency may rise over Indian coast due to warming of pacific: study

Context: Tropical cyclones originating near the Equator have shown reduced intensity and frequency in recent decades. Cyclone Okchi, in 2017, was a significant cyclone of this kind that impacted parts of India and Sri Lanka.

Relevance: GS -1 Cyclones

Factors Influencing Equatorial Cyclones:

  • A study in the journal Nature Communications suggests that a combination of global warming and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) might increase the occurrence of equatorial-origin cyclones.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and Climate Phases:

  • PDO is a cyclical climate phenomenon repeating every 20 to 30 years.
  • It affects the Pacific Ocean’s temperature distribution, with a positive or “warmer” phase corresponding to a warmer Western Pacific and a cooler Eastern Pacific.
  • Unlike El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), PDO phases are not annual and require several years of ocean temperature measurements to be identified.

ENSO’s Role in Equatorial Cyclone Frequency:

  • El Nino, a part of ENSO, involves warming of the Central Equatorial Pacific and often results in reduced rainfall over India.
  • La Nina, another aspect of ENSO, brings cooler-than-normal temperatures and excessive rainfall.
  • These patterns affect cyclone formation and rainfall over India.

Recent Developments and Cyclone Possibility:

  • In 2019, the PDO transitioned to a cooler, negative phase.
  • This shift, if it continues, might lead to increased tropical cyclones in post-monsoon months originating near the equator.
  • Warmer waters enhance cyclone intensity by providing more moisture.

El Nino’s Influence on Rainfall:

  • El Nino is currently developing in the Pacific.
  • Its effects are causing rainfall deficits of 7% and 17% in central and southern India, respectively.

Expert Insights:

  • The warmer waters near the equator can intensify cyclone formation.
  • Equatorial cyclones are relatively rare but can be fueled by warm waters.

GS 2

The Election Commission — autonomy in the crosshairs

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-30/th_delhi/articleGVUBMCMQJ-4072169.ece

Context: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has become a point of contention between the government and the judiciary. A recent disagreement is centred around the appointment process of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (EC).

Relevance: GS Paper – 2 Constitutional Bodies

Supreme Court’s Directive and Its Significance:

  • In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the CEC and ECs would be appointed by the President based on a committee’s advice.
  • The committee would comprise the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (or the largest Opposition party’s leader), and the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
  • This move aimed to broaden the ECI’s scope and enhance its constitutional standing.
  • The judgment recognized Article 324 of the Constitution, allowing Parliament to enact laws for this matter.

Government’s Proposed Bill and its Impact:

  • The government introduced a bill in the Rajya Sabha to counter the Supreme Court’s judgment.
  • The proposed bill seeks to exclude the Chief Justice of India from the selection committee.
  • Instead, the committee would consist of the Prime Minister (Chairperson), the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (Member), and a Union Cabinet Minister appointed by the Prime Minister (Member).
  • This step by the government challenges the court’s decision and aims to exert greater influence on the appointment of top election officials.

Government’s Intent and Institutional Changes:

  • Governments, particularly those with authoritarian tendencies, often do not abolish democratic institutions but rather reshape them to align with their interests.
  • The government’s move can be seen as an effort to control the appointments of key election officials and thereby consolidate power.

History of Appointment Reforms:

  • Discussions on the appointment process have occurred since the Constituent Assembly debates.
  • Various committees and experts have suggested that a collegium or a more representative committee should be involved in these appointments.
  • A committee proposed by the Prime Minister with the inclusion of the Chief Justice of India, Leaders of the Opposition, and other relevant members was suggested to ensure non-partisan appointments.

Erosion of Autonomy and Public Trust:

  • The ECI has been lauded for its integrity and effectiveness in managing elections involving millions of voters.
  • However, allegations of leniency towards the ruling party have led to concerns about the erosion of the ECI’s autonomy and public trust.
  • The government’s desire for more control over the ECI aligns with its objectives.

Gig Workers Bill: reading between the lines

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-30/th_delhi/articleGVUBMCMPV-4072174.ece

Context: The Rajasthan government’s introduction of the Platform-Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill 2023 aims to provide social security to gig workers.

Relevance: GS Paper – 2 Government Policies & Interventions

Four major issues are highlighted:

1. Definitions of Gig Worker and Aggregator:

  • The bill’s definitions of gig workers and aggregators lack clarity and clear binding as employer-employee relationships.
  • This ambiguity has significant implications as gig workers may be treated as independent contractors rather than employees.
  • The global debate about whether gig workers should be considered employees or independent contractors underpins this issue.

2. Limited Integration of Labour Laws:

  • As the bill doesn’t classify gig workers as employees, it struggles to integrate existing labour laws.
  • Aggregators can evade adhering to labour law mandates and providing workplace entitlements.
  • This might hinder gig workers from obtaining compensation for accidents at work.

3. Registration Database and Impediments:

  • The bill proposes a database of gig workers, but the registration validity doesn’t account for changing engagement with platforms.
  • This may inadvertently hinder workers who engage with multiple aggregators in a day.
  • The lack of a preventive mechanism to address this issue is evident.

4. Ambiguity in Social Security and Welfare Measures:

  • The bill’s core objective is to ensure social security for gig workers through the creation of a welfare board and fund.
  • It lacks clear definitions of social security and specified welfare measures.
  • The discretion given to the welfare board to formulate and notify schemes raises concerns about the level of worker representation and influence.

India, Kenya sign MoU for shipbuilding collaboration

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-30/th_delhi/articleGL6BMC3GF-4072209.ece

Context: Goa Shipyard Ltd. and Kenya Shipyard Ltd. signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for collaboration in ship design and construction.

Relevance: GS -2 Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

The agreement aims to enhance capacity building and cooperation in the shipbuilding industry.

Presentation of Parachutes and Medical Facility Support:

  • In a gesture of friendship, Rajnath Singh presented 15 pairs of parachutes (main and reserve) manufactured by Gliders India Ltd. to the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Defence.
  • This is a symbolic act of cooperation between the two countries.
  • Additionally, India offered support for the establishment of an advanced CT scan facility in Kenya.


‘Reroute rail track through gibbon sanctuary’

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-30/th_delhi/articleGVUBMCMR7-4072163.ece

Context: A 1.65-km long railway track in eastern Assam has divided the Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary.

  • The sanctuary is dedicated to the western hoolock gibbon, a species marked as endangered due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
  • The sanctuary is home to about 125 hoolock gibbons, India’s only ape.
  • Gibbons are arboreal animals and inhabit the forest’s upper canopy.

Sanctuary’s Status and Challenges:

  • The Hollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary, located in the Jorhat district, covers an area of 21 sq. km.
  • The sanctuary has become a “forest island” due to habitat loss and fragmentation, resulting in a loss of connectivity with surrounding forest patches.
  • The division caused by the railway track isolates gibbon families on both sides, leading to compromised genetic diversity and further endangering the species’ survival in the sanctuary.
  • Gibbons’ sensitivity to canopy gaps makes the proposed canopy bridge crucial for their movement and survival.

Conservation Implications:

  • The western hoolock gibbon species, like many other gibbon species globally, faces threats of habitat loss and habitat fragmentation.
  • Rerouting the railway track and creating an artificial canopy bridge aim to address the issues of isolation and genetic variability in the sanctuary’s gibbon population.
  • Connectivity restoration between gibbon populations is crucial for maintaining genetic diversity and overall species survival.

Centre slashes LPG prices by ₹200 ahead of poll season

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/2023-08-30/th_chennai/articleG0FBMCDEB-4067332.ece

Context: The Union Cabinet approved a reduction of ₹200 in the price of domestic LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) cylinder.

Continued Subsidy and Expansion of Ujjwala Yojana:

  • The beneficiaries covered under the Prime Minister’s Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) will still receive a subsidy of ₹200 per cylinder in their bank accounts.
  • The Cabinet also approved the addition of 75 lakh new Ujjwala connections.
  • The total number of beneficiaries under the scheme will increase to 10.35 crore.

Government’s Intent and Citizens’ Welfare:

  • Prime Minister Modi emphasized that the government’s goal is to enhance the quality of life and benefit the poor and middle-class citizens.
  • The government aims to ease the financial burden on citizens and prioritize their well-being by providing access to essential commodities at reasonable rates.

LPG Consumption Statistics:

  • India has more than 31 crore domestic LPG consumers, which includes around 9.6 crore beneficiaries of the Ujjwala scheme.
  • The decision reflects the government’s commitment to ensuring citizens’ access to essential commodities at affordable prices.

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