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[Mission 2024] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY 29 April 2024

InstaLinks :  Insta Links help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically.

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

  1. Supreme Court verdict on EVMs

 

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)

  1. Liberal Democracy

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. Chithirai festival
  2. Avar nomads of Europe
  3. Bru Community
  4. Decreasing Solar Radiation Availability in India
  5. Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status
  6. Antihistamines
  7. Nephrotic Syndrome

 

Mapping

  1. Netherlands

 


 

Supreme Court verdict on EVMs

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Election Process

 

Source: IE, TH

 Context: The recent Supreme Court verdict confirms the safety of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), dismissing pleas for a return to paper ballots or 100% verification of votes.

 

What did the SC say?

Aspect Supreme Court VVPAT Judgement
On Voter and Voting Process Voting will continue to take place using EVMs, with 100% of the machines attached to a VVPAT unit.
As per the existing provisions, VVPAT slips of five randomly selected Assembly constituencies or segments would be counted to verify with the count of the EVMs.
On Storage of Symbol Loading Units (SLUs) EC was directed to seal and store SLUs for 45 days post-results declaration.
SLUs, memory units used to load election symbols onto VVPAT machines, to be handled like EVMs.
On Candidates’ Verification of EVMs Candidates ranking second or third can request verification of burnt memory semi-controllers in 5% of EVMs per Assembly segment in each Parliamentary constituency.
The cost of such verification will be borne by the candidates themselves.
On Feasibility of Counting VVPAT Slips using a Machine EC urged to examine the feasibility of counting VVPAT slips with a machine, possibly using barcodes for faster counting.

 

Significance of the Judgement:

The SC judgement holds significant importance as it introduces measures to enhance trust in India’s voting system. Firstly, mandating the storage of Symbol Uploading Units (SULs) ensures the accuracy of vote counting. Secondly, the rechecking of EVMs addresses candidates’ legitimate concerns, fostering transparency. Ultimately, the judgment reaffirms the credibility of India’s electoral process.

 

Issues with the SC Judgment:

  1. Dismissal of Public Opinion: The SC’s dismissal of public concerns regarding EVM trust without thorough investigation raises doubts about the transparency of the decision-making process.
  2. Lack of Empirical Data: Failure to inquire about empirical data on voter experiences with VVPAT slips undermines the credibility of the judgment.
  3. Conflict of Interest: Allowing engineers from EVM manufacturers to verify burnt memory (and no third-party verification) presents a conflict of interest, raising concerns about impartiality.
  4. Ignoring Counting of VVPAT Slips: Disregarding the importance of counting VVPAT slips undermines transparency and public trust in the electoral process.

 

What are EVMs?

The Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is a microcontroller-based device developed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in collaboration with the Electronics Corporation of India and Bharat Electronics Limited. It was first used in the Kerala general election in 1982 and consists of a control unit for polling officers and a balloting unit for casting votes.

 

What are VVPATs?

The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is a system attached to the EVM to verify that votes are cast as intended. It allows voters to see a printed slip for 7 seconds, displaying the serial number, name, and symbol of the chosen candidate.

In the Subramanian Swamy Case (2013), the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to introduce VVPAT in EVMs gradually for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and instructed the Centre to allocate funds for procurement.

Further, a Supreme Court order in 2019 mandated VVPAT cross-verification of 5 EVMs in each assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency.

 

What are Symbol Loading Unit (SLU)? 

It is a small device connected to a laptop or personal computer to load candidate names, serial numbers, and symbols onto the Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs) under the supervision of a district election officer. Introduced about a decade ago alongside VVPATs, SLUs play a crucial role in ensuring accurate representation during the voting process. They are used a few days before polling begins to load symbols onto VVPATs, and after this process, they are returned to engineers for safekeeping until the next phase of polling.

 

Advantages of EVM

Advantages
1. Cost-effective Eliminates the need for ballot paper production and printing.
2. Eliminates Booth capturing Eliminates the possibility of booth capturing, ensuring fairer elections.
3. Administrative ease Provides convenience for polling officers and speeds up counting.
4. Time efficiency Reduces election duration and results declaration time.

 

Advantages of VVPAT:

Advantages
1. Vote verification Enables voters to verify that their votes are correctly registered.
2. DRE system Operates under a Direct Recording Election system, enhancing fraud detection.
3. Electoral transparency Offers greater transparency by allowing manual vote counting in case of disputes.

 

Challenges with EVM:

Challenges
1. Hacking susceptibility Vulnerable to manipulation and hacking, compromising results, but not proven yet.
2. Limited transparency Lack of transparency in design and operation undermines evaluation.
3. Security concerns Risks of unauthorized access, manipulation, or cyberattacks.

 

Challenges with VVPAT:

Challenges
1. Small sample size A limited sample size may not detect faulty EVMs during counting.
2. Technological glitches Malfunctions due to weather conditions or sensitivity to light.
3. Voter intimidation Potential for booth-wise profiling and intimidation.
4. Storage concerns Challenges associated with safe storage and integration with EVMs.

 

The way forward and Conclusion:

Moving forward, several key steps can enhance the reliability and transparency of the EVM-VVPAT-enabled electoral process. Firstly, addressing the lacunae in VVPAT technology is crucial, including measures to use sustainable inks, and reduce sensitivity to external factors like heat and light. Secondly, deploying a proper statistical method for counting votes will ensure accuracy and integrity. Thirdly, updating the VVPAT protocol to allow voters to cancel their vote in case of discrepancies can increase reliability. Additionally, promoting open-source code review will enable impartial specialists to evaluate technology’s accuracy and security. Implementing Risk-Limiting Audits (RLA) for cross-checking electronic tally with VVPAT counts will further enhance integrity. Lastly, public awareness and education about EVM technology and security measures are essential to build confidence in the electoral process, rather than reverting to a paper ballot system.

 

Insta Links

 

Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2017)

  1. The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
  2. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.
  3. Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognised political parties.

 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 3 only

 

 

Ans: D

Liberal Democracy

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)

 

Source: IE

 Context: The recent student protests on US campuses against the war in Gaza, have highlighted a complex crisis involving liberal democracy, universities, and the nature of protest itself.

 

The protests reflect a crisis of liberal democracy due to the political system’s failure to address atrocities in Gaza and its impact on young people’s (primarily students) sense of political agency. Additionally, the crackdown on free speech during these protests signals a deeper crisis of democracy and polarization within the United States.

 

What is Liberal Democracy?

Liberal democracy is a form of government characterized by the protection of individual rights and freedoms, the rule of law, free and fair elections, and a system of checks and balances. It emphasizes principles such as equality before the law, freedom of speech, press, and assembly, and the separation of powers between different branches of government.

The solution to address the crisis of liberal democracy stemming from student protests in universities involves promoting dialogue and understanding between students and university administrations, respecting freedom of speech and expression while ensuring safety and order on campus, and encouraging constructive engagement with issues through channels such as forums, debates, and student-led initiatives.

Chithirai festival

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: Lord Kallazhagar’s annual ritual in Alagar Temple, Madurai during the Chithirai festival saw thousands of devotees gathering to witness his ceremonial entry into the Vaigai river.

The festival, merging narratives of Lord Kallazhagar and Goddess Meenakshi’s marriage, holds historical significance and promotes harmony.

 

About Alagar Temple:

It is situated at the base of Alagar hills in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, and is one of Lord Vishnu’s 108 abodes, revered as Kallazhagar. Enclosed by fortress walls, it boasts six corridors and is mentioned in the Tamil epic Silappadikaram and Alvars’ hymns. The temple’s mandapam pillars showcase Nayaka’s art style, adding to its historical and architectural significance.

 

About Vaigai River: 

It originates in the Western Ghats (Varushanad Hills) and flows through the Pandya Nadu region of Tamil Nadu. Stretching 258 kilometres, it ultimately joins the Palk Strait near the Pamban Bridge in Ramanathapuram district. Vaigai holds historical significance as it flowed through Madurai, the capital of the ancient Pandya kingdom, and is mentioned in Sangam literature.

Avar nomads of Europe

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: DTE

 Context: Recent ancient DNA analysis sheds light on the vanished Avar nomads of Europe, revealing intricate family ties and social dynamics.

They uncovered a patrilineal society where men maintained lineage continuity, while women fostered social cohesion through marriage outside their paternal community. Additionally, the study identified unique social practices such as levirate unions and highlighted a transition in lineage coinciding with political shifts.

 

About Avars: 

They were the nomadic people from eastern central Asia, who thrived from the 6th to 9th centuries. Seen as successors to the Huns, they were hired by the Byzantine Empire for military campaigns. A strict patrilineal descent system characterized their society, and they avoided inbreeding, engaging in limited intermarriage with non-Avar groups. They were renowned for their way of life and warfare.

Bru Community

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: In a historic moment, Bru voters in Tripura participated in the Lok Sabha elections for the first time, having previously voted only in assembly elections. These voters, resettled from relief camps, cast their ballots at various polling stations across the state.

 

About the Bru community (also known as Reangs):

They historically inhabited Mizoram, Tripura, and parts of southern Assam. In Tripura, they are recognized as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG). Following ethnic conflicts in 1997, over 30,000 Brus fled Mizoram and sought refuge in Tripura. In 2020, a quadripartite agreement was signed to facilitate their permanent settlement in Tripura, involving the Centre, Tripura and Mizoram governments, and Bru representatives.

Decreasing Solar Radiation Availability in India

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: Solar radiation available for electricity conversion in India is decreasing, attributed to increased aerosol load and clouding.

Scientists from IMD suggest installing more efficient solar panels to counter this. Their analysis, based on data from 13 stations from 1985 to 2019, showed a decline in solar photovoltaic (SPV) potential across various locations.

India’s solar energy capacity stands at about 81 GW, with a potential of 748 GW peak. The country ranks 5th globally in solar power capacity. Initiatives like the PLI Scheme and Solar Park Scheme aim to promote solar power.

Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: BS

 Context: The Ministry of Finance has granted Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status to the gem and jewellery sector, as part of efforts to promote ease of doing business.

  • Asian Star, a leading diamond and diamond jewellery manufacturer, became the first in the industry to receive AEO status.

 

About the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) program: 

It operates under the World Customs Organization (WCO) SAFE Framework. Its goal is to boost international supply chain security and smooth the movement of lawful goods. Aligned with World Trade Organization trade facilitation agreements, it allows Indian Customs to strengthen cargo security through collaboration with key stakeholders in the international supply chain.

An entity with an AEO status is considered a ‘secure’ trader and a reliable trading partner. Benefits of AEO status include expedited clearance times, fewer examinations, and improved security and communication between supply chain partners.

In India, the AEO Programme (a voluntary initiative) was introduced by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) in India in 2011. It aims to simplify customs procedures and expedite clearances for businesses demonstrating high-security standards in the supply chain.

Antihistamines

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: Antihistamines are over-the-counter drugs used to treat short-lived allergic reactions like sneezing or itching.

  • They work by blocking histamine receptors in the body.

 

What is Histamine? 

It is a key mediator of allergy and inflammation, with roles in autoimmune conditions, gastric acid secretion, and hematopoiesis. It can be released in response to various factors, including allergens and physical injury. Most histamine is stored in mast cells and basophils.

Histamine binds to different receptors (H1, H2, H3, and H4) in different locations, triggering allergic responses. Antihistamines target these receptors to alleviate allergy symptoms. Ongoing research focuses on specialized drugs targeting H3 and H4 receptors to treat neurological and immunological disorders.

 

Nephrotic Syndrome

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: The use of fairness creams has been linked to nephrotic syndrome, with high levels of mercury found in the blood and urine of affected individuals. The study, published in Kidney International, reports 15 cases of nephropathy traced to the use of fairness creams.

 

Nephrotic Syndrome is a kidney disorder characterized by excessive protein in the urine due to malfunctioning kidney filters called glomeruli. Cosmetic use, specifically the use of fairness creams containing high levels of mercury, has been linked to Nephrotic Syndrome. The mercury in these creams can be absorbed through the skin and lead to systemic toxicity, ultimately causing damage to the kidneys and resulting in Nephrotic Syndrome.

Netherlands

Mapping

 

Source: Phys.org

 Context: Self-bred corals from the World Coral Conservatory project have been added to Europe’s largest reef at Burgers’ Zoo in the Netherlands, offering hope amid declining coral populations worldwide.

 

  • Also, recently the 26th World Energy Congress, co-hosted by the World Energy Council (WEC), concluded in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

 

About World Coral Conservatory Project:

It was initiated in Monaco in 2019 and aims to safeguard a diverse collection of coral species by cultivating samples taken from the natural environment. Partnering with public and private aquariums, the project seeks to preserve living colonies of corals and share them for conservation efforts.

 

World Energy Council (WEC):

The WEC, established in 1923, is a UN-accredited non-profit global energy organization. It aims to facilitate access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy for improved lives and a sustainable planet. With over 3000 member organizations from around 90 countries, it develops practical solutions and brings together a network of global energy transition leaders and practitioners.

 

About the Netherlands (also known as Holland) 

It is a country in northwestern Europe. It borders Germany to the east and Belgium to the south, with a North Sea coastline. Dutch is the official language, with West Frisian in Friesland. The name “Netherlands” refers to its low elevation, with 26% below sea level, reclaimed as polders since the 14th century.

 

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