24 June 2021 – Daily Current Affairs

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Consider the following statements with respect to Green Hydrogen

  1. Hydrogen when produced by electrolysis using renewable energy is known as Green Hydrogen.
  2. The production cost of Green hydrogen is very low when compared to the production costs of grey hydrogen.

Which of the statement(s) given above is/are correct?

a.   1 only

b.   2 only

c.   Both 1 and 2

d.   Neither 1 nor 2

2)Jiyo Parsi Scheme is initiated by which of the following ministries?

a.   Ministry of Home Affairs

b.   Ministry of External Affairs

c.   Ministry of Culture

d.   Ministry of Minority Affairs

3)Which of the following statement(s) is/ are incorrect with respect to Black Softshell Turtle

1)They are found in ponds of temples in north-eastern India and Bangladesh.

2)It is listed as Vulnerable under IUCN Red list.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

a.   1 only

b.   2 only

c.   Both 1 and 2

d.   Neither 1 nor 2

Prelims Specific News Items

Consumer Protection (E-commerce) Rules, 2020

The proposed amendments aim to bring transparency in the e-commerce platforms and further strengthen the regulatory regime to curb the prevalent unfair trade practices.

The proposed amendments are as follows:

(a) Chief Compliance Officer

To ensure compliance of the rules, the appointment of Chief Compliance Officer, a nodal contact person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies, officers to ensure compliance to their orders and Resident Grievance Officer for redressing of the grievances of the consumers on the e-commerce platform, has been proposed.

This would ensure effective compliance with the provisions of the Act and Rules and also strengthen the grievance redressal mechanism on e-commerce entities.

(b) Registration of e-coms

Putting in place a framework for registration of every e-commerce entity with the DPIIT for allotment of a registration number which shall be displayed prominently on the website as well as invoice of every order placed by the e-commerce entity.

This would help create a database of genuine e-commerce entities and ensure that the consumers are able to verify the genuineness of an e-commerce entity before transacting through their platform.

(c) Prohibition of miss-selling

The goods and services entities selling goods or services by deliberate misrepresentation of information have been prohibited.

(d) Expiry dates

This would ensure that consumers are aware of the expiry date of the products they are buying on the e-commerce platform.

It compels all sellers on marketplace e-commerce entities and all inventory e-commerce entities to provide the best before or use before the date to enable consumers to make an informed purchase decision.

(e) Fair and equal treatment

It has been provided that where an e-commerce entity offers imported goods or services, it shall incorporate a filter mechanism to identify goods based on country of origin and suggest alternatives to ensure fair opportunity to domestic goods.

(f) Fall-back liability

This would ensure that consumers are not adversely affected in the event where a seller fails to deliver the goods or services due to negligent conduct by such seller in fulfilling the duties and liabilities.

Why need such an amendment?

It was observed that there was an evident lack of regulatory oversight in e-commerce which required some urgent action.

Manipulating search results: Moreover, the rapid growth of e-commerce platforms has also brought into the purview the unfair trade practices of the marketplace e-commerce entities engaging in manipulating search result to promote certain sellers.

Preferential treatment: This includes preferential treatment to some sellers, indirectly operating the sellers on their platform, impinging the free choice of consumers, selling goods close to expiration etc.

Flash sales: Certain e-commerce entities are engaging in limiting consumer choice by indulging in “back to back” or “flash” sales. This prevents a level playing field and ultimately limits customer choice and increases prices.

2) The Union government’s invitation to 14 key political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir for a meeting with the PM has led to speculation about the possible scheduling of the Assembly elections. However, the delimitation of constituencies is crucial for kick-starting any political process in J&K.

What is Delimitation and why is it needed?

Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of an Assembly or Lok Sabha seat to represent changes in population over time.

This exercise is carried out by a Delimitation Commission, whose orders have the force of law and cannot be questioned before any court.

The objective is to redraw boundaries (based on the data of the last Census) in a way so that the population of all seats, as far as practicable, be the same throughout the State.

Aside from changing the limits of a constituency, the process may result in change in the number of seats in a state.

How often has delimitation been carried out in J&K?

Delimitation exercises in J&K in the past have been slightly different from those in the rest of the country because of the region’s special status — which was scrapped by the Centre in August 2019.

Until then, the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats in J&K was governed by the Constitution of India, but the delimitation of the state’s Assembly was governed by the J&K Constitution and J&K Representation of the People Act, 1957.

Assembly seats in J&K were delimited in 1963, 1973 and 1995.

The last exercise was conducted by the Justice (retired) K K Gupta Commission when the state was under President’s Rule and was based on the 1981 census, which formed the basis of the state elections in 1996.

There was no census in the state in 1991 and no Delimitation Commission was set up by the state government after the 2001 census as the J&K Assembly passed a law putting a freeze until 2026.

Why is it in the news again?

After the abrogation of J&K’s special status in 2019, the delimitation of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in the newly-created UT would be as per the provisions of the Indian Constitution.

On March 6, 2020, the government set up the Delimitation Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, which was tasked with winding up delimitation in J&K in a year.

As per the J&K Reorganization Bill, the number of Assembly seats in J&K would increase from 107 to 114, which is expected to benefit the Jammu region.

3) All about BRO :-

BRO was conceived and raised in 1960 by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for coordinating the speedy development of a network of roads in the North and the North Eastern border regions of the country.

It works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence.

It has diversified into a large spectrum of construction and development works comprising airfields, building projects, defence works and tunneling and has endeared itself to the people.

BRO Makes roads not only in India but also friendly neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan.

4) First-ever genetically modified rubber planted in Assam :-

A Rubber Board research farm on the outskirts of Guwahati now sports the world’s first genetically modified (GM) rubber plant tailored for the climatic conditions in the Northeast.

GM rubber

  • The GM rubber has additional copies of the gene MnSOD, or manganese-containing superoxide dismutase, inserted in the plant.
  • The plant was developed at the Kerala-based Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII).
  • It is expected to tide over the severe cold conditions during winter — a major factor affecting the growth of young rubber plants in the region.

Why need GM rubber?

  • Natural rubber is a native of warm humid Amazon forests and is not naturally suited for the colder conditions in the Northeast, which is one of the largest producers of rubber in India.
  • Growth of young rubber plants remains suspended during the winter months, which are also characterized by progressive drying of the soil.
  • This is the reason for the long immaturity period of this crop in the region.

What does MnSOD gene offer?

  • The MnSOD gene has the ability to protect plants from the adverse effects of severe environmental stresses such as cold and drought.
  • Laboratory studies conducted at the RRII showed the GM rubber plants overexpressed the MnSOD gene as expected, offering protection to the cells.
  • The plant is thus expected to establish well and grow fast in the region.
  • There was no risk of genes flowing from the GM rubber into any other native species, a concern often raised by environmental groups against GM plants in general.

Editorials of the Day

Editorial 01 : Why is China targeting Cryptocurrencies?

China’s crackdown against cryptocurrencies, which are those that aren’t sanctioned by a centralized authority and are secured by cryptography, is said to have a lot to do with the crashing of the value of cryptocurrencies.

Background

  • The price of the world’s most prominent cryptocurrency Bitcoin has more than halved in the last two months after hitting a peak in mid-April.
  • The second-most valuable cryptocurrency, Ether, has seen a similar fall from its peak last month.

What is Cryptocurrency?

  • A cryptocurrency is a form of digital asset based on a network that is distributed across a large number of computers.
  • This decentralized structure allows them to exist outside the control of governments and central authorities.
  • The word “cryptocurrency” is derived from the encryption techniques which are used to secure the network.
  • Blockchains, which are organizational methods for ensuring the integrity of transactional data, are an essential component of many cryptocurrencies.
  • Many experts believe that blockchain and related technology will disrupt many industries, including finance and law.
  • Cryptocurrencies face criticism for a number of reasons, including their use for illegal activities, exchange rate volatility, and vulnerabilities of the infrastructure underlying them. However, they also have been praised for their portability, divisibility, inflation resistance, and transparency.

What has China done?

  • In recent weeks, China has reportedly cracked down on crypto mining operations.
  • The country has over the years accounted for a large percentage of the total crypto mining activity that takes place.
  • In purpose, Bitcoin miners play a similar role to gold miners — they bring new Bitcoins into circulation.
  • They get these as a reward for validating transactions, which require the successful computation of a mathematical puzzle.
  • And these computations have become ever-increasingly complex, and therefore energy-intensive in recent years. Huge mining operations are now inevitable if one is to mine Bitcoins.

Why is Crypto mining booming in China?

  • Access to cheap electricity has made mining lucrative in China.
  • According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, China accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total computational power last year.

For an ‘unregulated’ market

  • Actually, there is little change in the policy as far as China is concerned. It first imposed restrictions on cryptocurrencies way back in 2013.
  • It then barred financial institutions from handling Bitcoin.
  • Four years later, it barred what are called initial coin offerings, under which firms raise money by selling their own new cryptocurrencies.
  • This is largely an unregulated market.

What does China want?

  • An inter-ministerial committee report in India two years ago noted that in 2017, the government of China also banned trading between RMB (China’s currency renminbi) and cryptocurrencies.
  • Before the ban, RMB made up 90% of Bitcoin trades worldwide.
  • The fact that cryptocurrencies bypass official institutions has been a reason for unease in many governments.
  • Not just that. The anonymity that it offers aids in the flourishing of dark trades online.
  • While many countries have opted to regulate the world of cryptocurrencies, China has taken the strictest of measures over the years.
  • According to observers, the latest set of measures are to strengthen its monetary hold and also project its new official digital currency.

For a digital Yuan

  • China launched tests for a digital yuan in March.
  • Its aim is to allow Beijing to conduct transactions in its own currency around the world, reducing dependency on the dollar which remains dominant internationally.

The offence of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was inserted in the Code in 1870. In the great trial of 1922, Mahatma Gandhi, charged with sedition, described the provision as “perhaps the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”.

Gandhiji, who himself was a lawyer, made two points in his statement given on March 18, 1922. One, he admitted the charge of preaching disaffection towards the then existing regime. Two, he justified his act and said that it was his duty to do so as it is “a sin to have affection for the system (under the British Raj)”. He explained that “Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence.”

This statement is not only political but also legal. Curiously, this assertion that Gandhiji made in the court was indirectly laid down as the law by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India in Kedar Nath Singh (1962) which said that incitement to violence is the gist of the offence of sedition. This proposition was followed by the top court consistently, till Vinod Dua (2021), where the Court said that a journalist cannot be booked for sedition for expressing dissent.

According to the report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), between 2016 and 2019 there was a 160% increase in the registration of sedition cases whereas the conviction rate during this period fell from 33.3% to 3.3%. Thus, the process itself becomes the punishment.

It needs to be told that the British Raj used the draconian provision only when they alleged that a speech or a writing resulted in violence,or there was at least a remote connection between the overt act and social disturbance. Bal Gangadhar Tilak was tried in 1897 on an accusation that the articles in Kesari, a Marathi paper owned by him, incited violence that led to the killing of two British officers. Tilak was convicted and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 18 months. In 1908, he was again tried and later sentenced for writing “seditious” articles and by connecting them with certain instances of ‘social disorder.

But after 2014, cases of sedition are frequently and intentionally registered solely based on words spoken, written, or tweeted. This can have a chilling effect on people’s movements. The clear political object behind the invocation of the law is to create an atmosphere of fear. This, in a way, is the price which the country had to pay for the retention of the law of sedition, among other draconian laws. Therefore, the Supreme Court of India and the High Courts should take suo motu cognisance of the incidents where the state ostensibly uses draconian laws to suppress criticism and protest. This is difficult, but not impossible. Such suo motu proceedings would reflect the kind of judicial activism that our time demands.

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