The Indian Express’ UPSC weekly news express covers some of the important and burning topics of current affairs news from this week to help you prepare for UPSC-CSE. Try out the MCQs and check your answers provided towards the end of the article.
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WHY IN NEWS?
— The US scientific and regulatory agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on Thursday (July 20) that the last month was the Earth’s hottest June since the record-keeping of global temperatures began 174 years ago. The update has arrived as 18 out of the first 20 days of July have witnessed highest ever average daily global temperatures — on July 3, the mercury, for the first time, touched 17.01 degree Celsius, and kept rising till it peaked on July 6, when the temperature soared to 17.23 degree Celsius.
Alind Chauhan Explains:
— On Thursday, the average daily global temperature was recorded at 17.12 degree Celsius. Notably, this isn’t the temperature of one place or region but a measure of average over both land and ocean, including the ice sheets in the polar region and the snow of the high mountains where surface temperatures are well below zero degree Celsius.
— According to scientists and experts, a number of factors are fueling the soaring temperatures in different parts of the world. While El Nino conditions, which have developed for the first time in seven years, are partly responsible for triggering extreme heat, continents like North America, Africa, Asia and Europe have been battered by scorching heat waves, caused, in most cases, by either formation of heat domes or arrival of anticyclones. Not only this, record high sea surface temperatures have also worsened the situation. But at the heart of the present crisis is climate change, which has increased the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like heat waves and mass scale floods.
The dangerous cocktail of heat domes, anticyclones and climate change
— Most parts of the world are currently experiencing sweltering heat due to the onset of heat waves but their cause remains different across regions. While in the USA and Algeria, heat domes are responsible for unleashing heat waves, Europe has suffered due to the arrival of two consecutive anticyclones that originated in Africa. But what are heat domes and anticyclones? And how do they produce heat waves?
— An anticyclone, also known as a high-pressure system, is essentially an area of high pressure in which the air goes downwards towards the Earth’s surface. As the air sinks, its molecules get compressed, which increases the pressure, making it warmer. This causes dry and hot weather. The winds remain calm and gentle during an anticyclone, and there is almost no formation of clouds because here the air sinks rather than rises.
— A heat dome, on the other hand, occurs when an area of high-pressure stays over a region for days and weeks. It traps warm air, just like a lid on a pot, for an extended period. The longer that air remains trapped, the more the sun works to heat the air, producing warmer conditions with every passing day. Heat domes, if they last for a long period, may cause deadly heat waves.
— Although heat domes and anticyclones don’t occur due to climate change, they have become more intense and longer as a result of soaring global temperatures, scientists and experts believe. As the planet continues to get warmer, thanks to the unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere, extreme weather events, much like those unfolding right now, will become more frequent. Moreover, if the Earth breaches the 1.5 degree Celsius global warming limit by the 2030s, there may be irrevocable damage to the ecosystem and geology, with millions, if not billions, of humans and other living beings, severely impacted.
— Also, El Nino conditions are exacerbating the extreme heat around the world. Essentially a weather pattern that refers to an abnormal warming of surface waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, El Nino is known to “greatly increase the likelihood of breaking temperature records and triggering more extreme heat in many parts of the world and in the ocean,” a World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report said.
Heat waves: The ‘silent killer’
— Heat waves are particularly lethal when high temperatures combine with high humidity, which is commonly referred to as a wet bulb. In such conditions, sweat from the human body isn’t able to evaporate, failing to stabilise the body temperature, which could ultimately cause heat stroke — it takes place only when the body temperature goes above 40 degree Celsius — and even death.
— Last month, more than 60 people died in Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia after the region was hit by a heat wave. The incident took place just two months after 13 people had died due to similar conditions at a large-scale event in Mumbai, Maharashtra. A new study, published last week, revealed that heat waves killed more than 60,000 in Europe last year.
Point to ponder: Extreme temperatures threaten public health, the environment and the economy. Right strategies must be put in place. Discuss.
The annual range of temperature in the interior of the continents is high as compared to coastal areas. What is/are the reason/reasons? (UPSC CSE 2013)
1.Thermal difference between land and water
2.Variation in altitude between continents and oceans
3.Presence of strong winds in the interior
4.Heavy rains in the interior as compared to coasts
Select the correct answer using the codes given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4
WHY IN NEWS?
— India has registered a decline in the number of “multidimensionally poor” individuals, from 24.85 per cent in 2015-16 to 14.96 per cent in 2019-2021, according to a report by the government think tank Niti Aayog.
Soumyarendra Barik writes:
— In absolute terms, approximately 13.5 crore Indians escaped poverty between the five year time period, courtesy of improvements in indicators like access to cooking fuel, sanitation, drinking water, and bank accounts, among others.
— However, the report, titled ‘National Multidimensional Poverty Index: A Progress Review 2023’ showed that when it came to indicators like nutrition and access to education, the improvement has only been marginal, as these parameters contributed the most in keeping one in seven Indians multidimensionally poor.
— While there continues to be a major disparity between the number of people in poverty in rural and urban areas, the former witnessed the fastest decline in poverty from 32.59 per cent to 19.28 per cent, owing to improvements in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Rajasthan.
What is multidimensional poverty?
— This is the second edition of Niti Aayog’s report on the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). It captures overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards and other broader qualitative aspects of life, like child mortality, housing conditions, and other basic services such as water and sanitation to ascertain multidimensional poverty. The primary data source to arrive at these figures was National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5).
— Under the three broad indicators of health, education and living standards, Niti Aayog assigns specific dimensions – such as nutrition and child adolescent mortality under health, years of schooling under education, and access to cooking fuel, electricity, bank accounts etc. under quality of living. Each of these specific parameters are assigned a value to calculate what is called a ‘deprivation score’.
— The deprivation score is the sum of the weighted status of all the indicators for an individual – if it is more than 0.33, only then an individual is considered multidimensionally poor.
What is keeping Indians multidimensionally poor?
— Even as there has been a significant reduction in the number of multidimensionally poor individuals, it is worth noting that one in seven Indians continue to fall under that category – primarily because poverty reduction is not equally represented in the three main indicators of standard of living, health, and education.
— Within the health category, three sub-indicators — nutrition, child and adolescent mortality, and maternal health — showed only moderate improvement, the report showed.
— Nutrition deprivation decreased from 37 per cent to 31 per cent, maternal health deprivation improved from 22.5 per cent to 19.17 per cent, and child and adolescent mortality deprivation declined from 2.69 per cent to 2.06 per cent.
— Lack of proper nutrition contributed close to 30 per cent — the highest — in the overall calculation of India’s multidimensional poverty index. “Contributing to nearly one-third of the multidimensional poverty in India, nutrition is arguably one of the most important indicators in India’s national MPI,” the report said.
— A household is considered nutritionally deprived if any child between the ages of 0 to 59 months, or woman between the ages of 15 to 49 years, or man between the ages of 15 to 54 years – for whom nutritional information is available – is found to be undernourished. A woman or a man is considered undernourished if their Body Mass Index (BMI) is below 18.5 kg/m2.
— Children under 5 years of age are considered malnourished if their z-score of height-for-age (stunting) or weight-for-age (underweight) is below minus two standard deviations from the median of the reference population. Even if a single member of the household is identified as undernourished, the entire household is treated as deprived of nutrition.
— Other indicators that did not record a significant decline and aided the most in keeping Indians poor include lack of years of schooling (16.65%), inadequate access to maternal health services (11.73%), and less-than-desired school attendance (9.10%), among others.
— Also, while there has been a significant improvement in access to cooking fuel, it is worth noting that close to 44 per cent of India’s population is still deprived of it. Similarly, while sanitation numbers have improved, more than 30 per cent of the population is deprived when it comes to sanitation services.
— Access to housing also remained to be an indicator where the improvement was only marginal. In 2015-16, close to 46 per cent of the population did not have such access, and in 2019-21, more than 41 per cent Indians still did not have access to housing.
— All three of the above sub-indicators fall under the standard of living criteria.
How have various states fared in the multidimensional poverty index?
— The good news is that the number of states with less than 10 per cent people living in multidimensional poverty doubled in the five years between 2016 and 2021. According to the report, in 2015-16 (NFHS-4), only seven states had less than 10 per cent of their population living in multidimensional poverty — Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Goa, and Kerala.
— However, in 2019-21 (NFHS-5), the list had doubled to include 14 states, with the seven new additions being Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, and Uttarakhand.
— Except for Bihar, no other state in India has more than one-third of its population living in multidimensional poverty. However, even in Bihar’s case, the reduction in multidimensional poverty has been significant over the five year time period – in 2015-16, over 51.89 per cent of Bihar’s population lived in multidimensional poverty. By 2019-21, the figure had dropped to 33.76 per cent.
— Jharkhand reduced the percentage of people living under multidimensional poverty from 42 per cent in 2015-16 to 28.82 per cent in 2019-21, Uttar Pradesh saw a decline from 37.68 per cent to 22.93 per cent, and in Madhya Pradesh, multidimensional poverty dropped from 36.57 per cent to 20.63 per cent.
Point to ponder: Growth can alleviate poverty but its definition needs to expand to make any tangible difference on the ground. Discuss.
In a given year in India, official poverty lines are higher in some states than in others because (UPSC CSE 2019)
(a) poverty rates vary from State to State
(b) price levels vary from State to State
(c) Gross State Product varies from State to State
(d) quality of public distribution varies from State to State
WHY IN NEWS?
— The Supreme Court on Wednesday (July 19) said it would list a batch of petitions before it that pertain to matters related to marital rape.
— ‘Marital rape’ refers to the act of forcible sexual intercourse by a man with his wife without her consent. While rape is a serious crime in India, marital rape is not illegal.
What are the issues in the petitions?
— There are four different matters before the Supreme Court related to the subject. (More details on each of these below.)
* An appeal against a split verdict by a two-judge Bench of the Delhi High Court on a challenge to the constitutional validity of the ‘marital rape immunity’ in the Indian Penal Code.
* An appeal against a judgment by the Karnataka High Court that allowed the prosecution of a man for raping his wife.
* PILs challenging the ‘marital rape exception’ allowed under IPC Section 375 which defines rape.
* Various intervening petitions on the issue.
— On January 16 this year, the court had sought the Centre’s response on petitions relating to criminalisation of marital rape, and on March 22, fixed the date of hearing as May 9.
What was the Delhi High Court case?
— On May 11, 2022, a two-judge Bench of Justices Rajiv Shakdher and C Hari Shankar delivered a split verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the exception provided to marital rape in the IPC.
— Justice Shakdher held that the exception is unconstitutional, while Justice Hari Shankar upheld its validity, saying the exception was “based on an intelligible differentia”. Since substantial questions of law were involved, the judges granted leave of appeal to the Supreme Court.
What exactly is this ‘exception’ to the rape law?
— IPC Section 375 defines rape and lists seven notions of consent that, if vitiated, would constitute the offence of rape by a man.
— The crucial exemption is this: “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.”
— This exemption essentially allows a marital right to a husband, who can with legal sanction exercise his right to consensual or non-consensual sex with his wife. The challenge to the exception is based on the argument that it undermines the consent of a woman based on her marital status, and is, therefore, unconstitutional.
What was the Karnataka ruling that is under challenge?
— On March 23, 2022, the Karnataka High Court had refused to quash charges of rape brought by a wife against her husband. The judgment defied the exception provided in the rape law—and while the court did not explicitly strike down the marital rape exception, it allowed the prosecution to go ahead.
— The husband had moved the High Court after a trial court took cognizance of the offence under Section 376 (rape).
“A man is a man; an act is an act; rape is a rape, be it performed by a man the ‘husband’ on the woman ‘wife’,” the single-judge Bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna of the Karnataka High Court said. The “age-old…regressive” thought that “husbands are the rulers of their wives, their body, mind and soul should be effaced,” the court said.
What is the basis for the exception being in place?
— Several post-colonial common law countries have the marital rape immunity. (‘Common law’ is the body of law that is created by judges through their written opinions, rather than through statutes or constitutions (statutory law). Common law, which is used interchangeably with ‘case law’, is based on judicial precedent. The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries, including India, are common law countries.)
— The marital rape exception is premised on broadly two assumptions:
* Consent in perpetuity: This is the assumption that once married, a woman gives her permanent consent, which she cannot retract. This concept in the colonial-era law is rooted in the idea that a woman is the ‘property’ of the man who marries her.
* Expectation of sex: This is the assumption that a woman is duty-bound or is obligated to fulfil sexual responsibilities in a marriage, since the aim of marriage is procreation. And since the husband has a reasonable expectation of sex in a marriage, the provision implies that a woman cannot deny it.
Does the law exist in the UK itself, or in other Commonwealth countries?
— The marital rape exception was overturned by the House of Lords in 1991.
— Australia started to enact laws criminalising marital rape from 1981 onwards; Canada criminalised marital rape in 1983, and South Africa in 1993.
What are the main arguments against the exception to the IPC section on rape?
* It has been argued that the marital rape immunity stands against the light of the right to equality, the right to life with dignity, personhood, sexual, and personal autonomy — all of which are fundamental rights protected under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution respectively.
* In the Delhi case, the petitioners argued that the exception creates an unreasonable classification between married and unmarried women and, by corollary, takes away the right of a married woman to give consent to a sexual activity.
* They also argued that since courts have recognised that consent can be withdrawn even during or in between a sexual act, the assumption of “consent in perpetuity” cannot be legally valid. On the issue of “reasonable expectation of sex”, the petitioners argued that even though there is a reasonable expectation of sex from a sex worker or other domestic relationships as well, consent is not irrevocable.
* The petitioners also argued that since the provision was inserted before the Constitution came into force, the provision cannot be presumed to be constitutional.
* In 2013, the J S Verma Committee, set up to look into criminal law reforms following the brutal gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedic in Delhi in 2012, had recommended removing the marital rape exception. But the then Congress-led government did not change the law on marital rape.
What is the stand of the government?
— In an affidavit in the Delhi case, the Centre defended marital rape immunity. Its arguments spanned from protecting men from possible misuse of the law by wives, to protecting the institution of marriage.
— However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also told the court that wider deliberations are required on the issue. He brought to the court’s notice a 2019 committee set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs to review criminal laws in the country.
— The Delhi government too defended the law on the ground that married women who might be subjected to rape by their husbands have other kinds of legal recourse such as filing for divorce or a case of domestic violence.
— The government has also said that since the law on restitution of conjugal rights, a provision in the Hindu Marriage Act that allows a court to compel a spouse to cohabit with the husband, is valid, so is the exception to marital rape, by extension.
— However, restitution of conjugal rights is a provision in personal laws and not in penal laws and even that provision is currently under challenge before the Supreme Court.
(Source: Supreme Court to list marital rape petitions for hearing – What are the issues, arguments involved? by Apurva Vishwanath)
Point to ponder: A law won’t end marital rape – but it’s needed all the same. Discuss.
Which of the following committee, set up to look into criminal law reforms following the brutal gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedic in Delhi in 2012, had recommended removing the marital rape exception?
(a) J S Verma Committee
(b) Rajamannar Committee
(c) N. Gopalaswamy Iyenger Committee
(d) None of the above
WHY IN NEWS?
— Tamil Nadu has pipped Maharashtra and Gujarat to emerge as the top state among coastal states in the Niti Aayog’s Export Preparedness Index 2022.
— The index is aimed at assessing the readiness of the states in terms of their export potential and performance.
— Tamil Nadu is followed by Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and Kerala in that order in the ranking of coastal states, according to the government think tank’s report released on Monday.
— Among hilly/Himalayan states, Uttarakhand has ranked at the top position. It is followed by Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Sikkim, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram in that order.
— Haryana topped the chart among the landlocked regions. It was followed by Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
— The index can be used by the regions to benchmark their performance against their peers and analyse potential challenges to develop better policy mechanisms to foster export-led growth at the sub-national level. The ranking is based on four main pillars: policy, business ecosystem, export ecosystem and export performance.
— The index is also aimed at promoting competition among all states (coastal, landlocked, Himalayan and UTs) to bring about favourable policies, ease the regulatory framework, create necessary infrastructure and assist in identifying strategic recommendations for improving export competitiveness.
— Speaking at the release of the report, NITI Aayog CEO BVR Subrahmanyam said that states are fundamental stakeholders in the country’s exports “because that is where the action is.” “Entire ecosystem for export happens in states,” he said adding the report will help in raising awareness about the subject. He also said that the country needs to broad-base its exports.
Point to ponder: What is the Foreign Trade Policy 2023?
With reference to Export Preparedness Index 2022, consider the following statements:
1. It is released by Niti Aayog
2. The ranking is based on four main pillars: policy, social security, export ecosystem and export performance.
3. In the category of union territories/small states, Delhi was ranked first.
How many above statement/s above is/are true?
(a) One statement only
(b) Two statements only
(c) All of the statements
(d) None of the statements
WHY IN NEWS?
— The central government has amended rules relating to retirement benefits of IAS, IPS (Indian Police Service) and IFoS (Indian Forest Service) pensioners empowering itself to act against them and withhold or withdraw their pension even without a reference from the state government if they are found guilty of grave misconduct or are convicted of a serious crime.
— In a July 6 notification on the All India Services (Death-cum-Retirement Benefits) Amendment Rules, 2023, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said a ‘grave misconduct’ includes communication or disclosure of any document or information mentioned in the Official Secrets Act and a ‘serious crime’ includes any crime involving an offence under the Official Secrets Act.
— Sources in the government pointed to an earlier rule 3(3) in the All India Services (Death-cum-Retirement Benefits) Rules, 1958, which stated that the Central government may withhold or withdraw pension or any part of it “on a reference from the State Government concerned, if after retirement a pensioner is convicted”. The amended rules have added “or otherwise” after “…the State Government concerned”.
— A source in the DoPT said this means that the Centre may not have to wait for a reference from the state government to act against a pensioner found guilty of grave misconduct or convicted of a serious crime by a Court.
— A source in a state government said if the state government concerned does not send such references in such cases, the central government may initiate a process of action.
— The rationale behind this amendment was that sometimes state governments concerned do not send a reference for action against retired officials even after conviction by courts of law. On applicability of the Centre’s rules related to deputation of All India Services officials also, the Central and West Bengal governments were at loggerheads two years ago and prior to that. Considering the nature of All India Services, the Central government is often helpless in taking action against such officers without a reference from state governments.
— The amended rules reiterate that the decision of the Central Government on withholding or withdrawing the pension “shall be final”.
— A new rule states that no member of a service who has worked in any Intelligence or security-related organisation “shall, without prior clearance from the Head of such Organisation, make any publication after retirement of any material” relating to domain of the organisation, including any reference or information about any personnel and his designation, and expertise or knowledge gained by virtue of working in that organisation; and sensitive information. “This means that expressing and writing in the media and writing books which disclose sensitive information will result in action against officials concerned,” the source in DoPT said. A similar amendment was made in 2021 in the respective pension rules for Central Civil Services.
— Officers who served with intelligence or security-related organisations will have to give an undertaking to abide by new rules and any failure to observe such an undertaking on the part of a retired member of services “shall be treated as grave misconduct.”
— The undertaking states: “I shall not publish in any manner, while in service or after my retirement, any information or material or knowledge which is related to the domain of the organization and obtained by virtue of my working in the said Organization. This declaration is notwithstanding my responsibilities and liability, in terms of the relevant conduct rules, pension rules, laws dealing with offences relating to official secrets and Intelligence Organisations.”
Point to ponder: Why honesty is a priceless asset for a civil servant?
With reference to the Union Government, consider the following statements: (UPSC CSE 2021)
1. N. Gopalaswamy Iyenger Committee suggested that a minister and a secretary be designated solely for pursuing the subject of administrative reform and promoting it.
2. In 1970, the Department of personnel was constituted on the recommendation of the Administrative Reforms Commission, 1966, and this was placed under the Prime Minister’s charge.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
ANSWERS TO MCQs: 1 (a), 2 (b), 3 (a), 4 (a), 5 (b)
Note: Catch the UPSC Weekly Quiz every Saturday evening and brush up on your current affairs knowledge.)
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