Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC 20th March 2024


National News 

1.Selection and election: The Election Commission needs a selection panel free of executive blas 

  • The quick, if not hasty, filling up of two vacancies in the Election Commission of India (ECI) has attracted justified criticism. The multi-member body got two new members within days of the resignation of Arun Goel, an Election Commissioner (BC) whose appointment itself came in the midst of a Constitution Bench hearing for a truly independent process of selecting members of the panel that conducts and supervises India's elections. Critics are not wrong when they point out that the Act setting out the process of selecting the Chief Election Commissioner and other ECs appeared to fall short of the sort of independence the Constitution Bench verdict of March 2023 envisaged. The selection took place at a time when a petition challenging the validity of the Act was about to be taken up for hearing. To add to the unfortunate set of circumstances, Mr. Goel's resignation for "personal reasons" has gone unexplained. It is a matter of grave concern that an EC whose term was set to go on for a few more years should choose to resign just days before the Commission finalized the Lok Sabha election schedule. It goes without saying that the discussion on the process selecting the ECs has no bearing on the competence or suitability of Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, the two new ECs. The real problem may lie with the law that Parliament chose to enact last year in response to the Supreme Court of India questioning the absence of any legislation since the inception of the Constitution, as required under Article 324, lay- ing down an appointment process for the ECs. The Court's emphasis was on the ECI's independence from the executive so that the elections the panel conducts are truly free and fair. Towards that end, it sought to fill the vacuum by an interim arrangement under which the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India (CJI) formed the selection committee to choose the CEC and ECs. However, it was meant to be in place only until Parliament enacted a law. In response, the government enacted a law that constituted a panel comprising the Prime Minister and any Union Minister, besides the Leader of the Opposition, or the leader of the largest single party in the Opposition. The question now before the Court is whether a committee in which the executive has a two-one majority can be a truly independent authority. The argument that Prime Ministers have always been selecting the CEC and ECs seems attractive, but, ultimately, an executive-driven process has to yield to one more rooted in the constitutional principle of having an independent body to hold free and fair elections, even if the CJI, as an institutional head, might not be the person most suited to be a part of the selection process. 

2. SC directs States to give ration cards to 8 cr, workers 

  • The Supreme Court on Tuesday und an exception to the delays in the simple mentalon of its April 2023 order to provide ration cards to about eight crore migrant workers rescued in the eshram portal bir not covered under the Na Gonal Food Security Act. The portal has 28.6-схоте registrants. Of this, 20.63 crore are registered on ration card data. 
  • A Bench led by Justice Hima Koldi directed nation cards to be given to the remaining, eight crore m grant and unorganized vec for workers registered with the eshram portal in two months. The court was aching on the arguments raised by advocates Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl Urtouza for activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chhokar. Mr. Bhushan had argued that there could be more than 10 crore workers left outside the protective umbrella of the Food Safety Act as the statistics were based on the 2011 census. The court had said last year that it was the duty of a welfare state to inchide migrant workers on the ration card roll 

3.Activist calls for border march in Ladakh to mark land lost to China 

  • Around 10,000 people from Ladakh will march to the border along China to Theshowcase how much land has been lost to the needle boring country, climate activist and education reformer Sonam Wangchuk said on Tuesday. 
  • Wangchuk has been protesting in open in subzero temperature in Leh, surviving only on salt and water for the past 14 days, to demand constitutional safeguards for the Union Territory. 
  • "We know from the shepherds that they are not allowed [anymore] to go to 5 places that they always used to go. In particular areas, they are stopped kilometers before where they used to go earlier. We will go and show whether land has been lost or not," Mr. Wangchuk said. 
  • The march would be ta- ken out in Finger area (north and south bank of Pangong Tso), Demchok, Chushul among others along the Line of Actual Control with China. He said two dates have been shortlisted for the March April 7. March 27 
  •  "The march will also highlight the areas, prime pasture lands, that are being turned into solar parks. On one hand, nomads are losing their land to corporates who are coming to set up their plants, maybe mining in future...on the other hand they are losing pasture land to China which is encroaching from the north, the Chinese have captured huge chunks of land in the last few years," he said. 
  • After the June 15, 2020 incident in Galwan where 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent clashes with the Chinese People's Liberation Army, several rounds of talks between the two armies have taken place leading to disengagement and creation of buffet zones or no-go areas. 
  • At the center of Mr Wangchuk's protest that has received huge support from local people is the failure of Statehood talks between Ladakh civil society leaders and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, of March 4. expeditiously. 

International News 

3. Cyclone Megan caused devastation in Northern Australia 

  • Cyclonic storm 'Megan' has caused heavy rain and devastation in the northern region of Australia. The Bureau of Meteorology said the storm will move westwards through inland parts of the Northern Territory in the coming days. 
  • The tropical cyclone brought winds of 130 kilometers per hour (81 mph) and more than 200 millimeters (7.8 in) of rain in 24 hours to the remote town of Borroloola on the southwestern shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria. 
  • The planned evacuation of approximately 700 residents in Borroloola was cancelled. About 600 millimeters (23.6 in) of rain fell on Groot Island and the storm caused downed trees. 
  • This is the second tropical cyclone to hit the region. Last month, extropical cyclone Lincoln crossed the coast of the territory in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria as a category one, bringing strong winds and heavy rainfall. 
  • Australia's cyclone season spans the Southern Hemisphere's warmer months from November to April. In December, Tropical Cyclone Jasper, the first cyclone of the season, reached the northern Queensland state coast. 
  • In January, Tropical Cyclone Kirili's winds of 170 kilometers per hour (106 mph) devastated cities and towns in the same region. 

4.According to Swiss organization Iqair, New Delhi remained the world's most polluted capital for the fourth consecutive year 

  • New Delhi is the most polluted capital in the world since 2018. According to the Air Quality Report 2023 conducted by Swiss organization IqAir, Delhi's PM2.5 level has deteriorated from 89.1 micrograms per cubic meter to 92.7 micrograms per cubic meter in 2022. 
  • In 2023, Begusarai of Bihar has emerged as the most polluted metropolitan region in the world. Where the average PM2.5 concentrations are 118.9 micrograms per cubic meter, which is a significant increase from previous year data. 
  • According to the World Air Quality Report 2023 of the Swiss organization Iquair, India ranks third in 134 countries in terms of average annual PM2.5 concentrations. In 2022, India was at eighth position with PM2.5 concentrations. 
  • Bangladesh was the most polluted country in the world, where the average PM2.5 concentrations were 79.9 micrograms per cubic meter, while Pakistan was second with a level of 73.7. 
  • The report estimates that more than one billion people in India experience PM 2.5 concentrations, the World Health Organization's recommended annual guideline level is more than 5 micrograms per cubic meter. 
  • According to the report, almost all of the 100 cities with the worst air pollution worldwide were in Asia last year, indicating the significant impact of the climate crisis on the deteriorating air quality, and this has posed a serious threat to the world. 
  • The Iquair report, which monitors air quality worldwide, suggests that 83 of these cities were located in India, which was more than ten times the air quality guidelines of the World Health Organization. 
  • Only 9% of the more than 7,800 cities evaluated globally lived on the standard of WHO, which suggests that the average annual level of PM2.5 should not exceed 5 micrograms per cubic meter. The scope of the report increased from 7,323 places in 131 countries in 2022 to 7,812 places in 134 countries in 2023. 

Appointment News 

5.Sheyphali Sharan appointed government spokesperson 

  • Senior Indian Information Service (IIS) officer Sheyphali B Sharan has been appointed as the new government spokesperson. 
  • A 1990-batch officer, Sharan will “look after” the charge as Principal Director General (Pr.DG) of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) after incumbent Manish Desai’s superannuation on March 31. 
  • Sharan had earlier served as the spokesperson of the Election Commission and the finance ministry. 
  • She is the fifth woman officer to head the PIB after Neelam Kapur, Deepak Sandhu, Shakuntala Mahawal and N J Krishna. 
  • While, Senior IIS officer Maushami Chakraborty has been appointed director general (news) of All India Radio (AIR). Chakraborty, a 1991-batch IIS officer, will take charge in April, succeeding Vasudha Gupta. 

Recent Appointment 

  • National PwD icon by EC – Para Archer Sheetal Devi 
  • Chairman of Prasar Bharati – Navneet Kumar Sehgal (replace A Surya Prakash) 
  • Chairman of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) – Rahul Singh (replace Nidhi Chiber) 
  • CMD of Northern Coalfields Limited (NCL) – B Sairam 
  • Foreign Secretary – Vinay Mohan Kwatra (tenure extended for 6 months) 

6. P. Radhakrishnan assumes office as Telangana Governor 

  • Jharkhand Governor C. P. Radhakrishnan assumed office as the Governor of Telangana at the Raj Bhavan, Hyderabad. 
  • Chief Justice of the High Court of Telangana, Alok Aradhe, administered the oath of office to the newly appointed Governor in the presence of Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy at a ceremony held in the Raj Bhavan. 
  • Radhakrishnan, the current Governor of Jharkhand, was appointed to discharge the additional duties of Telangana Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry until regular arrangements are made. 
  • This appointment follows the resignation of Tamilisai Soundararajan, who previously held these positions. 

About Telangana 

  • Established – 2 June 2014 
  • Capital – Hyderabad 
  • Chief Minister – Revanth Reddy (replace K. Chandrashekar Rao) 
  • Deputy CM – Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka 
  • Governor – P. Radhakrishnan (replace Tamilisai Soundararajan) 
  • Speaker of Telangana Assembly – Gaddam Prasad Kumar 
  • Legislative Assembly Seats – 119 

Important days

7. 20 March – French Language Day 

  • The United Nations has celebrated French Language Day every year on 20 March. 
  • This is one of the six official languages celebrated by the UN each year. 
  • Objective – To raise awareness about the history and use of the French language worldwide. 
  • In 2010, the UN’s Department of Public Information made French Language Day official to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity. 
  • The day is also used to promote the equal use of all six official languages throughout the UN which are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. 

8. 20 March – International Day of Happiness 

  • International Day of Happiness is observed every year on 20 March. 
  • This day is dedicated to spreading awareness about the importance of happiness and well-being. 
  • The day also aims to highlight the negative impact of stress and other mental health factors on happiness 
  • On July 12, 2012, The General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution to proclaim March 20 as the International Day of Happiness. Since then, the special day has been celebrated every year on the same day. 

9. 20 March – World Sparrow Day 

  • World Sparrow Day is celebrated every year on March 20. 
  • Objective – To raise awareness about the threats these birds face and inspiring action for their conservation. 
  • Theme 2024 – I Love Sparrow 
  • The Nature Forever Society of India, along with other organizations around the world, started World Sparrow Day in 2010. They realized that sparrows were disappearing from many places, and they wanted to do something about it. 
  • Sparrows are more than just cute little birds. They play a vital role in our ecosystem. They help control pest insects, and they spread seeds that help plants grow. 

Science & Technology News 

10. Meta partners with ECI to identify unlawful content from its platforms 

  • As the world’s largest democracy prepares for the 18th General Elections, Meta (erstwhile Facebook) will continue efforts to limit misinformation, remove voter interference, and enhance transparency and accountability on its platforms to support free and fair elections. 
  • The company said it is also “closely engaged with the Election Commission of India via the Voluntary Code of Ethics” that it joined in 2019, which gives the Commission a high priority channel to flag unlawful content to Meta. 
  • Tech-giant Google had also last week announced that it has partnered with the ECI to provide authoritative information on voting processes for the upcoming general elections via Google Search and YouTube videos. 
  • Both Google and Shakti (a pan-India network) will work together to aid in the detection of online misinformation, including deepfakes, and to create a common repository that news publishers can use to tackle the challenges of misinformation at scale. 

Ranks & Reports News 

11. 27.6million people engaged in forced labour in 2021: ILO 

  • A study by the International Labour Organization (ILO), released in Geneva on Tuesday, has found that forced labor generates illegal profits worth $36 billion per year. 
  • This is an increase of 37% of such illegal profits since 2014 and the study said this is fuelled by both a growth in the number of people forced into labor, as well as higher profits generated from the exploitation of victims. For the study, surveys have been conducted among workers, including Indians in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. 
  • The report titled "Profits and poverty: The economics of forced labor above estimates that traffickers and criminals are generating close to $30,000 per victim, up from $8,269 (adjusted for inflation a decade ago. "Total annual illegal profits from force. 
  • It perpetuates cycles of poverty and strikes at the heart of human dignity, says report labour are highest in Far rope and Central Asta ($24 billion), followed by Asla and the Pacific ($52 billion), the Americas ($52 billion), Africa ($20 billion), and the Arab States ($18 bilhon)," the report said. 
  • The report also said forced commercial sexual exploitation accounts for more than two-thirds (73%) of the total illegal profits, despite accounting for only 27% of the total number of victims in privately imposed labor. "After forced commercial sex ual exploitation, the sector with the highest legal profits from forced land domestic work (US$2.6 billion). These fle gal profits are the wages pockets of workers but to stead remain in the hands of their explotters, as a result of their coercive practices," ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngpo sadd. 
  • "Forced labor perpetuates cycles of poverty and exploitation and strikes at the heart of human dignity. We now know that the sit action has only got worse. The international com marity must come together to take action to end this injustice," tald the Director-General. 
  • There were 2716 million people engaged in forced labor on any given day in 2024, the report said, mearing 3.5 people for annualery 1,000 people in the world Between 2016 06 bour is industry, at US$35 2024, the member of per billion, followed by servic pile in forced labor to creased by 2.7 million," it culture (Ut5.9 billion), saudi 

12. 21 lakh SIM cards in use have fake proof’ 

  • At least 21 lakh SIM cards have been activated using m's fake proof of identity or am proof of address documents, according to an analysis carried out by the Department Telecommunications of the (DoT). In an alert sent to Bharti Airtel, MTNL, BSNL, men Reliance Jio, and Vodafone of Idea, the DoT provided a inlist of suspicious subscribers and called for an urgent SIT re-verification of their doc Instruments, and disconnection It of those found to be bogus., A fresh pan-India analy gi-sis of 114 crore mobile to phone connections by the na DoT's Artificial Intelligence shi & Digital Intelligence Unit a (AI&DIU) has shown that invalid, non-existent, fake, or forged documents were ad The used to support applications to activate at least 21 nt lakh SIM cards issued by ce various telecom service ais providers. A majority of these numbers are suspected to be in use for commited-ting various types of cyber crimes or online frauds. 
  • It was found that in 1.92 crore cases, an individual had subscribed for too many mobile connections, crossing the permitted limit of nine SIM cards across service providers across the country. This included connections that were "erroneously" categorized as individual instead of bulk connections. 
  • In some of the cases, gibberish data was provided in the proof of identity or proof of address sections of the subscriber database records. 
  • The nationwide analysis of SIM cards was taken up as part of the Sanchar Saathi, a citizen-centric initiative that empowers citizens to know the mobile connections issued in their name and seek disconnection of any SIM card that they have not applied for or that they no longer require. "It is of utmost importance to show correct and validated data to the citizens when they use the 'Sanchar Saathii' portal. A fresh pan-India analysis of 114 crore mobile connections has revealed that 21.08 lakh invalid/non-existent fake/forged Pol/PoA documents were used for subscription," the DoT said.

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