7th December Current Affairs
December 7, 2020
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December 9, 2020
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8th December Current Affairs

140 pleas against CAA hang fire

In News:

Over 140 petitions challenging the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have been pending for nearly a year in the Supreme Court, leaving petitioners from various walks of life and across the political spectrum “deeply disappointed” over the delay.

Background:

In December 2019, the court declined a stay while asking the Centre to make an all-out effort to disseminate the actual legislative intent of the citizenship law.

In January 2020, the court, to another plea to stay the law, had said the CAA was “uppermost in everybody’s minds”.

What’s the concern wrt to CAA?

The CAA fast-tracks citizenship-by-naturalisation process for persons from six religious communities, other than Muslims, who have fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The petitions against CAA have argued that a law that welcomes “illegal migrants” into India selectively on the basis of their religion, is against principles of secularism, right to equality and dignity of life enshrined in the Basic Structure of the Constitution.

What’s the issue? Why these petitions should be held at the earliest?

The case runs the risk of becoming infructuous.

Communal riots and violence had rocked the national capital over the anti-CAA protests.

The CAA has been unprecedented in many ways — the nature of amendment which strikes at the root of the Basic Structure of the Constitution.

Therefore, it would be in the best interest of all that the Supreme Court hears the case at the earliest and put at rest these issues.

How the government defends the law?

The Union Home Ministry described the CAA as a “benign” law which does not lead to expulsion, deportation or refoulement of illegal migrants.

It says that the CAA merely offers “amnesty” without hurting India’s secularism.

It relaxes the settled principles of Indian citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians persecuted in the “theocratic States” of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Hampi chariot can’t be touched

In News:

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has put up a chain barricade to prevent people from touching or climbing the iconic stone chariot in front of the Vijaya Vittala Temple at Hampi and causing damage to it in any way.

Details:

The stone chariot was one of the most visited monuments in Hampi and needed extra protection.

About the stone chariot:

The chariot inside the temple complex is a shrine dedicated to Garuda, but the sculpture of Garuda is now missing.

The Hampi chariot is one among the three famous stone chariots in India, the other two being in Konark, Odisha, and Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu.

The delicately carved chariot at Hampi, art historians say, reflects skill of temple architecture under the patronage of Vijayanagara rulers who reigned from 14th to 17th century CE.

About Hampi:

It was the last capital of the last great Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar.

It was a part of the Mauryan Empire back in the third century BC.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Its name is derived from Pampa which is the old name of the Tungabhadra River on whose banks the city is built.

The site used to be multi-religious and multi-ethnic; it included Hindu and Jain monuments next to each other.

Architecture:

It has been described by UNESCO as an “austere, grandiose site” of more than 1,600 surviving remains of the last great Hindu kingdom in South India.

The buildings here predominantly followed South Indian Hindu arts and architecture dating to the Aihole-Pattadakal styles, but the Hampi builders also used elements of Indo-Islamic architecture in the Lotus Mahal, the public bath and the elephant stables.

Hemkunta Hill, south of the Virupaksha temple contains early ruins, Jain temples and a monolithic sculpture of Lord Narasimha, a form of Lord Vishnu.

Understanding the concept of trade areas in farm laws

In News:

The idea of alternate markets, or “trade areas” has been described in the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020.

Details:

These are not new to India. The first and perhaps the most advanced experiments of these were in Maharashtra in 2005-06.

The government had then sanctioned the setting of private markets and collection centers through the issuance of Direct Marketing License (DML)s.

What were they?

The private markets were wholesale mandis set up by private entrepreneurs, while the collection centres were for aggregators like BigBasket and Reliance Fresh who procured directly from farmers at the farm gate.

What were the reforms in Maharashtra and why were they brought in the state?

Private markets were for the facilitation of trade in agri-commodities.

The state government’s director of marketing issues licenses for setting up these markets.

Minimum of five acres of land would be required for setting up of these markets along with infrastructure like auction halls, sheds, waiting halls, motorable roads, etc.

Barring the land cost, the initial investment towards such markets is around Rs 4-5 crore.

Later on, a more intense intervention was the introduction of direct market licenses (DMLs) which allowed aggregators like Big Basket, Reliance Fresh, ADM Agro Industries to buy directly from the farmers.

Is MSP mandatory for these markets?

One of the license clauses is that not a single trade would be carried out below the government notified MSP by these license holders.

In the case of complaints, the licenses can be revoked. Many DML holders suspend their procurement when market prices fall below the government declared MSP. This is mainly to avoid action from the authority.

How have the reforms played out on the ground?

Since they were introduced, estimates say around 22 per cent of the total business of mandis have been diverted towards these ‘trade area’.

APMCs continue to report annual turnover of over Rs 48,000 crore while these markets on the other hand report business of around Rs 11,000-13,000 crore.

Microwave energy likely made U.S. officials ill

In News:

A study commissioned by the US State Department has found that “directed” microwave radiation is the likely cause of illnesses among American diplomats in Cuba and China.

What’s the issue?

The health effects were experienced by about two dozen Americans affiliated with the U.S. Embassy in Cuba as well as Canadian diplomats and personnel at the U.S. consulate in Guanghzhou, China, in early 2017.

What does the study reveal?

The study found that “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible” explanation for symptoms that included intense head pressure, dizziness and cognitive difficulties.

It found this explanation was more likely than other previously considered causes such as tropical disease or psychological issues.

The study, however, did not name a source for the energy and did not say it came as the result of an attack.

What are Microwaves?

Microwaves are defined as electromagnetic radiations with a frequency ranging between 300 MHz to 300 GHz while the wavelength ranges from 1 mm to around 30 cm.

They fall between the infrared radiation and radio waves in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Properties of microwaves:

Metal surfaces reflect microwaves.

Microwaves of certain frequencies are absorbed by water.

Microwave transmission is affected by wave effects such as refraction, reflection, interference, and diffraction.

Microwaves can pass through glass and plastic.

What are “microwave weapons”?

“Microwave weapons” are supposed to be a type of direct energy weapons, which aim highly focused energy in the form of sonic, laser, or microwaves, at a target.