9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 13, 2021

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

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List of  9 PM Current Affairs Articles

  1. Reasons and Solutions for disaster management in Uttarakhand
  2. India-Australia relation: Towards sustainable future
  3. What are the issues in the government’s order to Twitter?
  4. Self-regulatory codes for OTTs should be allowed
  5. Mindless development could bring more calamities

Reasons and Solutions for disaster management in Uttarakhand

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 3: Disaster and Disaster Management

Synopsis: There are various reasons behind disasters in Uttarakhand. It can be prevented by taking some long-term measures.

Background:

  • The glacier burst in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand caused the flash floods. It led to the death of 34 people with more than 170 people missing.
  • Apart from that, it also caused destruction to public and private infrastructure. For example, it damaged the NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower project and the Rishiganga mini-hydro project.
  • The recent disaster reminds the 2013 disaster in Uttarakhand which resulted in the death of thousands of people.
  • The scientific community still doesn’t have the exact cause of this disaster.

What are the possible causes of the disaster in Uttarakhand?

The scientific community still doesn’t have the exact reason for this disaster. However, some possible reasons are discussed below.

  • First, the Natural ecology of Uttarakhand and its fragile mountain ecosystem is prone to such disaster. Uttarakhand is located between the young and unstable mountains. Moreover, intense rainfall makes it more vulnerable.
  • Second, as per geologists, glaciologists, and climate experts, climate change, rapid and indiscriminate construction activities, and the subsequent ecological destruction are disturbing the balance of the ecosystem in this region.
      • For example, The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment Report (2019) had pointed out that one-third of the Hindu Kush Himalaya’s glaciers would melt by 2100. It may happen even if all the countries in the region fulfilled their commitments under the Paris Agreement.
      • It also warned that any ecologically destructive activities would lead to more intensified disasters like landslides.
  • Third, according to the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, rock mass might have weakened due to intense freezing and thawing of snow. This may have created a weak zone. Fractures led to a collapse that resulted in flash floods.
  • Fourth, Experts also opine that massive deforestation is a possible reason for the disaster. For example, in 2014, the Chopra committee established that the haphazard construction of dams can cause irreversible damage to the region.
  • Fifth, there are also possibilities that the use of explosives in the construction of dams and other infrastructure would have weakened the rock strata.

What needs to be done?

  • First, Government should Invest in long-term crisis response mechanisms and resilience solutions such as,
      • Flood prevention and rapid response.
      • Road stabilization technologies for fragile road networks, bridges, culverts, and tunnels.
      • Strengthening embankments using scientific knowledge.
      • Investing in monitoring and early warning system.
      • Investing in training and capacity building of local communities to prevent and manage risks effectively.
  • Second, hydropower and other public infrastructure projects need reassessment based on the sensitivity of local ecology.
  • Third, implementing pragmatic policies and regulatory guidelines such as responsible eco- and religious tourism policies. This will restrict detrimental human activities.
  • Fourth, applying innovative and inclusive solutions that support nature and marginalized communities, to restore and rebuild a resilient future for Uttarakhand.

India-Australia relation: Towards sustainable future

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2: Bilateral, Regional, and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Synopsis: How India and Australia are working towards a sustainable world.

Background

  • The year 2020 witnessed the spread of the Pandemic, bushfires in Australia as a consequence of climate change. It has taught the following important lessons to the world.
    • The need to strengthen the resilience of our global communities.
    • The importance of innovation, resources, and leadership to protect and support our communities.
    • The need for global cooperation is critical to contain global average temperatures below 2° Centigrade.
    • Traditional Indigenous knowledge about the land is important together with modern science. For example, using traditional fire management practices, through cool and controlled burns.
  • In this context, we will discuss the steps taken by Australia to adapt and build a resilient economy against climate change. And how the India-Australia partnership is working towards this goal.

How Australia is ensuring resilience to its communities?

  • Funding: Australia will invest ₹1,500 crores in its natural resources, environment, and water infrastructure. It will increase resilience to drought and climate disasters. It is also spending more than ₹200 crores on bushfire recovery efforts by supporting local communities.
  • Building Institutions: Australia is establishing a new National Resilience, Relief, and Recovery Agency. It aims to reduce natural disaster risk, enhance natural disaster resilience and ensure effective relief and recovery to all hazards.
  • Global cooperation: It has pledged to contribute ₹150 crores to global climate finance from 2020 to 2025. About ₹50 crores of this funding will be used to help the Pacific countries to deploy renewable energy, and improve their climate change and disaster resilience.
    • They are also committed to share their experiences and skills with the world through its Development Programme and the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.

How Australia is collaborating with India to build resilient economies for the future?

India and Australia are collaborating in various fields to mitigate the effects of climate change. It will be helpful to build resilient future economies. Some of them are

  • First, collaboration in disaster management. Both the countries are working as close partners in global initiatives such as Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and International Solar Alliance. It is spearheaded by India and ensures the development of resilient infrastructure against climate change.
  • Second, collaboration in the field of Water Resources Management. Both the countries aim to enhance each country’s water management capabilities and share expertise and best practice.
  • Third, collaboration in the field of developing green technologies to lower carbon emissions. To achieve this, Australia has released the Technology Investment Roadmap, a comprehensive plan to invest in low emission technologies to the tune of ₹7,000 crores by 2030.
    • It focuses on accelerating technologies like hydrogen, carbon capture use, and storage, soil carbon, energy storage.
    • It will ensure the widespread global deployment of these technologies by the partnerships with growing economies like India.
  • Fourth, the Australia-India Joint Energy Dialogue. It will strengthen cooperation between the two countries in various areas like: pumped hydro storage, cost-effective battery technologies, hydrogen and coal gasification, adoption of clean energy technology, fly ash management technologies, and solar forecasting and scheduling.

Way forward

  • In the path towards climate action, it is necessary for us to engage all stakeholders equally and respect indigenous culture and knowledge.
  • Also, we need to prioritize practical actions that help us adapt to those changes and strengthen the resilience of our local environments.

What are the issues in the government’s order to Twitter?

Source: Click here

Syllabus: GS 2

Synopsis: The government ordered twitter to shut down user accounts connected with the farm protests. This order hampers fundamental rights and also reveals a complex relationship between the government and large platforms.

Introduction

The growing digitization of Indian society can be seen in the ongoing farmers’ protest. A new hashtag trends on Twitter for and against the farm laws or protests every day.

  • Twitter is quite significant in India despite a lower number of users as compared to Facebook or WhatsApp. It is because Twitter is the default social network for political leaders and foreign governments to make statements.
  • The government exercised its powers under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act to block user’s accounts critical of the farm bills. 
  • Suspended accounts are in large numbers and include a diverse category of users from farm unions, activists, and press publications.

What are the issues in this decision?

The step is against the rights of the users who are not given reasons for the censorship. Secrecy impacts the public’s right to receive information, which is an essential part of the fundamental right to speech and expression.

  1. First, the public has incomplete information as the actual text of the legal orders was not disclosed. This is an anti-democratic practice that results in unchecked growth of illogical censorship and also leads to a lack of trust. 
  2. Second, this outcome has been the failure of the Union executive and Supreme Court. Former framed the process for blocking websites in 2009 and included the secrecy provision; the later failed to examine it. 
    • For example, the court stated in Shreya Singhal, that a person whose website or account was blocked under section 69A could approach a court. However, accessing legal remedies is difficult when the direction for blocking is secret.
  3. Third, several state governments are refusing to publish orders on internet shutdowns even after RTI has been filed. 
  4. Fourth, due to absence of any prior notice, users are not given an opportunity to present their defense. This is conflicting with the principles of natural justice.  This again goes back to the vagueness and the design faults in the process of how directions under Section 69A are issued.

The way forward 

  • In Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, the court was judging the constitutional acceptability of the telecommunications shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir. In its judgment, it gave a direction for pro-active publication of all orders for internet shutdowns by the government. 
  • Thus, the directions of blocking should be made public in other cases as well.

Conclusion 

Twitter refused to comply with directions by citing the policy of proportionality. This unconstitutional law is being applied to its maximum capacity. It is creating a sense of confusing that a government formed under the Constitution may be failing to fulfill its duties when other platforms that trade in our data for profit are more ready.


Self-regulatory codes for OTTs should be allowed

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS 2: Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies

Synopsis: The government should consider allowing the Over-The-Top (OTT) services to self-regulate themselves.  Recently, they published a new tool kit to implement the self-regulation code of 2020.

Read – Self-regulatory toolkit by OTTs for implementation of Self Regulation Codes, 2020 – ForumIAS Blog

Background

  • The Over-The-Top (OTT) services in India have witnessed an increase in subscription revenues during the Pandemic. The growth has been so significant that major films are now getting released over OTTs, against the earlier trends.
  • The growth of OTT and the absence of censorship regulation for the OTT’s supported the growth of creative talent in the film-making industry.
  • However, there are growing concerns regarding the misuse of creative freedom. Many court cases have been filed against them.
      • For instance, in UP the Amazon Prime Video series has been charged with cyberterrorism, obscenity, promoting social enmity, and defiling places of worship.
      • Similarly, in M.P, a petition has been filed, seeking a court direction to bring OTT channels under the censorship laws.
  • Following these developments, the I&B Ministry stated its intention to bring regulatory code on the content for OTT platforms.
  • In this backdrop, recently the Internet-based Over-The-Top (OTT) services operationalized a self-regulation code. 

Why the government needs to allow the self-regulation code?

  • First, the code of self-regulation is in accordance with the Indian rule of law. It accepts IPC rules, laws on women’s and children’s rights, copyright and age-appropriate certification, and parental control. It also upholds the constitutional right to free speech.
  • Second, it is also consistent with the 2016 Shyam Benegal committee recommendation on film certification. Some important recommendations are,
    • Creative expression should not be curbed in the process of classification of films. It leaves viewing decisions to audiences.
    • Furthermore, it also recommended for classification of films on the basis of viewer’ age.
    • It called for ensuring transparency in the way reviewing bodies are constituted.

The idea of pre-censoring films and forcing arbitrary cuts based on prejudice is against the values of liberal societies. Hence, the self-regulatory code operationalized by the Over-The-Top (OTT) services should to be given a chance.


Mindless development could bring more calamities

Source: Click here

Syllabus: GS 3

Synopsis: Development work in the Himalayas is being carried out without an understanding of its fragility, seismicity, glacial behavior. 

Introduction 

The flash floods due to the burst of an artificial lake inside Nanda Devi Sanctuary is the newest warning given by the Himalayas to the supporters of development. The losses of lives, property, and projects are estimated at more than Rs. 4,000 crore. 

  • According to Planet Labs, ice along with frozen mud and rocks fell down from a high mountain inside the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. 
  • The current winter season has seen less rain and snow, despite highest temperature in the last six decades. We also witnessed winter forest fires this time. Effects of chemical weathering were much more active in the higher Himalayas. More such events can place this year.
  • Rishi Ganga has seen similar devastations in the past. There was a lake burst in Rishi Ganga in 1968. Another lake burst in Rishi Ganga was seen at the time of the 1970 Alaknanda floods.

How have the developmental activities caused troubles in the Himalayan region?

Development activities have increased the destructive powers of the calamities. Less destructive methods, technologies and rules are available but they are not being followed.

  • First, studies have suggested that the pace of climate change is faster in mountains and fastest in the Himalayas. The huge displacement of soil, silt, and stones in the river floor owing to development projects force the raging river to behave differently.
  • Second, the projects have been carried out despite the protests by the local people. 
    • People protested against the Vishnu Ganga project, which was devastated in the 2013 floods and rebuilt. 
    • The people of Reni protested against the Rishi Ganga project as they were aware of the river’s flood history. The Supreme Court and the Uttarakhand High Court gave judgments against the construction of dams in the inner Himalayas.
  • Third, a slight error in the monsoon forecast alters the preparedness in the region resulting in a severe calamity.
    • In the 2013 calamity, the India Meteorological Department wrongly announced that the monsoon will reach Uttarakhand by June 27-28. It reached a week before with 300-400 percent more rain. Thus, the death toll and scale of destruction was record-breaking.
  • Fourth, any hindrance in the river-bed increases the power of the river. In such a situation, water and silt dominate the surrounding and downstream areas. For example, the VishnuPrayag Project was destroyed by the combined power of Khiron Gad and Pushpawati. 
  • Fifth, the assessment of committees has not been implemented. The Ravi Chopra committee formed by the SC recommended the closure of all the 24 hydro projects by the Wildlife Institute of India.
    • Moreover, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was a function of independent functionaries. Now this task has been assigned to a government agency.

Way forward

Locals do not want to risk their homes, fields, etc. in the name of development. The Himalayas have been giving us life through water, fertile soil, biodiversity, wilderness, and a feel of spirituality. We cannot and should not try to control or dictate the Himalayas.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Feb 13, 2021

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